Candide PR

My impression of philosophers used to be tedious because they talk about random theories that are not intriguing, therefore, when I first heard that we were reading a book written by a philosopher named Voltaire, I expected the book to be monotonous. However, after reading Candide, I am amazed by the way Voltaire criticizes ideas that he disagrees with by using sarcasm. Pangloss, the “greatest” philosopher in the book, advocates “everything happens for the best”. Voltaire refutes this idea sarcastically by creating adversity scenes for Pangloss and Candide throughout the story. He makes Candide more interesting to read with an engaging plot, and also makes the readers understand his ideas and agree with him. I agree with Voltaire that everything does not happen for the best. I admire that Pangloss and his students have such an optimistic mindset, but in real life, bad things do happen all the time, and sometimes, good things do not happen after encountering adversity. The worst thing that could happen to humans is dying. If a person died, how could good things happen? Thus, I think Pangloss’s theory is absurd.

“But we must cultivate our garden.” (page 119) This quote has attracted my curiosity. What does Voltaire mean by cultivating our garden? What do “cultivate” and “garden” signify in this metaphor? “Cultivate” means taking steps and putting effort into growing something or improving its growth. “Garden” is a symbol of soul and happiness. My interpretation of this quote is that we must put effort into creating a meaningful and fruitful life. We must learn and grow from what we encountered in order to have a good life. To me, learning is not only a thing that you do in school or when you are in school. It is a thing that you do throughout your life. We must keep learning to improve ourselves and be better people.  There is an idiom in Chinese saying that “living till old age, learn till old age.” It basically means that people learn till their lives end. There is always a purpose to learn and something that you can learn. It reminds me to be a lifelong learner and stay curious.

Compare to Oedipus the King, Candide is way easier to read since the translation is in new English, despite there being an enormous amount of words that I have never seen. I spent a lot of time translating when I was reading. Overall, I think Candide is amusing enough to read and I would recommend other people to read this masterpiece.


Leave a Reply