Research papers on Candide by Voltaire often require students to examine how irony is used to convey the fact that the world is imperfect. Candide, by Voltaire, involves a young German man indoctrinated into the belief that "Private misfortunes contribute to the general good, so that the more private misfortunes there are, the more we find that all is well". Through exaggerated irony, Candide research papers point out that the story presents the theme of eternal optimism in light of an innately evil and imperfect world.
Candide is the main character and approaches every situation with naïve hope that his optimism will flourish against the odds of the world's misfortunes. Candide's repeated challenges and failures teach a brilliantly displayed message of the world's imperfection. In the stark contrast of Eldorado, Voltaire's version of paradise, the three great ills of the world are missing: want, idleness, and vice. It is these ills that Candide professes to be the downfall of man's ability to truly discern what is evil and good.
Themes in Candide
Voltaire uses irony to convey the themes of Candide. Upon early instruction, Candide is taught that everything that happens in the world happens for the general good. As Candide grows up, he is taught by Pangloss that all misfortunes that happen to him have a positive side to them.
Eldorado serves as the contrast to illustrate what society could be like without evil.
- In Eldorado, communal work and routine save the inhabitants from want, idleness, or vice.
- The children play with gold and jewels as if they were marbles.
- The townspeople laugh at Candide when he attempts to pay for things with gems, for they have no need or regard for monetary measurements.
- Their needs are completely fulfilled with the beauty and compatibility of each member of society's contribution.
The portions of society that Voltaire criticizes such as religion and politics exist only in a minimal form in Eldorado. There is a King but he is wise, fair, and kind. There is no formal religion in Eldorado under the guise that religion caters to the rich and powerful. Religion is a means of manipulation of the masses; therefore it is logical that Eldorado would not contain a recognized religion. Instead, all its inhabitants are "priests". We can witness Voltaire's view of religion in Candide's conversation with Friar Giroflee in chapter 24. The Friar claims that he leads a life of misery, as all monks should, and is full of rage and jealousy at the unnatural life that monks are forced to live. Clarence Darrow points out that the time in which Voltaire was born into "there was really but one church which, of course, was ignorant, tyrannical and barbarous in the extreme". Thus Voltaire is making note that attempting to follow justice and righteousness, in as an exact state as possible, leads only to misery. The only rule that the people of Eldorado must follow is never to leave. Therefore there can be no strict religion or political governance in Eldorado.
The challenges to this theory are many and ironically humorous when listed outside the context of the story, just as Voltaire had intended. Candide begins his first lesson in optimism as a soldier cast into "heroic butchery" and inhumane treatment to his fellow man, yet "in accordance with the rules of international law". To escape the savagery of war, Candide flees to Holland where Syphilis abounds as a gift of "love", a gift that was given to Pangloss. While on board a ship to Lisbon, Candide is shipwrecked with his port in sight but survives only to be injured in an earthquake. Injured and facing death as a heretic, Candide narrowly escapes being sacrificed in a "slow fire" to calm the Gods and keep them from shaking the earth. Just as Candide's luck would have it, he happens to kill the Grand Inquisitor and is forced to flee to America. In his trip from Buenos Aires and South America back to Europe he witnesses a Negro slave that has had his leg and hand cut off for "this price that you eat sugar in Europe". Candide learns that not all the world shares his optimism in the following conversation.
-Oh Pangloss, cried Candide, you have no notion of these abominations! I'm through, I must give up your optimism after all. -What's optimism? said Cacambo.-Alas, said Candide, it is a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell.
As Candide moves on to England, the admiral of a fleet is executed to encourage others to fight harder. The most pathetic evil of the world is revealed in Venice, where boredom turns deadly because people have everything they desire.
Candide - Irony
Candide is a masterpiece of irony. The humor of the story is the tragedy that teaches us the reality of life.Voltaire makes the assertion that the world stripped of evil and without the selfish desires of personal gain, would result in Eldorado. But the possibility of this is beyond human likelihood and rests in the shattering of all basic foundations in which the masses of the world have put their faith. Faith in politics, religion, and capitalism has diminished the optimism of humanity and the capabilities of man to create a utopia such as Eldorado.Candide learns the definition of optimism is "The passion for maintaining that all is right when all goes wrong".
The lesson of Eldorado is lost on Candide since he wishes to leave and find Cunegonde. Along with finding her, his desire is to take back gold and diamonds to Europe so that Candide and Cacambo can be rulers of their own country. While Candide does progress in his awareness that the reality of the world does not breed optimism, he still clings to optimistic naivety in leaving Eldorado and believing he could create a world of such splendor. His emergence from the story is also made up of contrasts. On one hand he believes that "Pangloss cruelly deceived when he told that all is for the best in this world". Yet Candide clings to his optimism as a form of survival from the world that he has witnessed and has come to better understand through his journey.