Optimism and Pessimism in Voltaire’s Candide Essay

Optimism and Pessimism in Voltaire’s Candide Essay

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In Voltaire’s Candide, we are taken by the hand through an adventure which spanned two continents, several countries, and to a multitude of adverse characters. The protagonist, Candide, became the recipient of the horrors which would be faced by any person in the 18th century. But Candide was always accompanied with fellows sufferers, two of which our focus will lay, Pangloss and Martin. In equal respects, both are embodiments of different philosophies of the time: Pangloss the proponent of Optimism and Martin the proponent of Pessimism. Each of the two travelers is never together with Candide, until the end, but both entice him to picture the world in one of their two philosophies. Throughout the story there is an apparent ebb and flow from Candide on how to think of the world. By the end of his journey, Candide will be presented with evidence to lead to his agreement of either Optimism or Pessimism. But I submit, Candide does not become a firm believer in either philosophies but rather retains a philosophy in between Optimism and Pessimism, somewhat of a stoic mentality. Thus Voltaire’s opinion on philosophy will be predicated upon his character, Candide.
In the beginning Candide, whom at this time is living in a German castle, was taught by the prominent philosopher, Pangloss. Pangloss teaches the ideals of Optimism. Throughout the novel Pangloss’s teachings becomes coined into one phrase, “all this is the best there is” (Voltaire, Candide, 13). During the start of the tragedies faced by Candide it is apparent that, though, everything may be horrible it is the best of all things. This suggests that Candide too believed in the optimistic world view. The reason why Candide holds on to the ideals of Optimism may be due to his ...

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... former ideals, though exclaims not to turn against them. Regardless of the philosophical squabbling Candide “asserted nothing” (Voltaire, Candide, 96). I believe this to be the final indication of where Voltaire places his philosophical value. Candide’s final phrase in the end of the novel, I believe, to be an indicator that neither Optimism nor Pessimism is entirely valid in the world. Candide’s final philosophy lays in the middle ground, a rather stoic stance on life. Not focusing on the terrible but also not being naïve to suggest that all is well in the world. Gardening, thus, becomes a metaphor by Voltaire of by centering life on what one can control, he is accepting the world’s obvious horrors but, equally, will not allow it to sway his life.

Works Cited

Voltaire, , and Roger Pearson. Candide: And Other Stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print

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