Despite being written over two hundred years ago, Voltaire’s Candide addresses many issues that are to this day controversial and widely discussed. Concepts like Rationalism exist within religion and sociological controversies like war, science and human rights are still in existence today. Although within the topics mentioned by Voltaire there are slight differences in what they consist of now. War has changed, religion is more diverse, and with the existence of the internet Candide being sheltered from the world means more than it did in 1759.
Voltaire also briefly alludes to topics of homosexuality hat would have to be move thoroughly discussed if Candide were modified to the twenty-first century. With minor modifications, Candide could be easily adapted into the modern world. Voltaire’s commentary on war is as relevant as it was in 1759, and for that reason deserves to stay in a modern adaptation. In chapter three when Candide is fighting in the Bulgar-Avar War, Voltaire describes the brutal scene as “splendid” and “brilliant’; here Voltaire is ironically giving positive, artistic adjectives to a gory battle (Voltaire 20).
The Bulgars themselves are meant to represent the Prussians during the 7-Years-War (Voltaire 114). The Prussians were known for their militaristic nature especially under King Frederick the Great who had annexed Silesia from Austria within the first year of his reign. The Prussians glorified war and took great pride in their military (Germany Permits Itself to Celebrate Prussian King). Voltaire is mocking the Prussians by showing how chaotic and fatal war can be, that no matter how many lives are lost the Prussians will still view war in a positive light.
This glorification of war is still highly present in this day and age: MSNBC news reporter Brian Williams recently called the U. S. ‘s missiles to Syria beautiful” (Brian Williams Is ‘guided by the Beauty of Our Weapons’ in Syria Strikes). Williams’ praise of the tomahawk missiles nearly echo’s Voltaire’s narration the only difference being Williams’ sincerity versus Voltaire’s satirical sarcasm. Although Voltaire’s commentary on war could remain as it is, war itself has changed drastically since the eighteenth century and Candide’s encounter with the Bulgar would need to be modified.
The Germans are no longer as militaristic as they were during the Age of Enlightenment (Germany Permits Itself to Celebrate Prussian King), but for the sake of the plot it should be ssumed that the modern version of the Bulgars should be another culture that today still highly values militarism. Cyber warfare is common to the twenty first century and for that reason must be added. With countries like Russia being accused of influencing foreign elections (U. S. Government Officially Accuses Russia of Hacking Campaign to Interfere with Elections) or organizations like WikiLeaks being called “terrorists” (Julian Assange like a Hi-tech Terrorist, Says Joe Biden), there are new stages to warfare that exist outside of a formal battle; tension between the opposing sides can boil over much quicker due to he existence of the internet, information traveling quicker than it had, and ideas easily being exchanged.
The commentary on religion is still accurate in today’s world as well, however new religious conflict have arisen that should be added to a modern. The similarities to religion in the twenty first century lie in Voltaire’s exposing of the hypocrisy in the devout. When the starving Candide encounters a Christian in Holland who had been preaching about charity and asks him for food, the man refuses to help (Voltaire 21). Voltaire is showing the irony in corruption in the church during his time.
As some of the main rinciples of Christianity was modesty and care for others, it’s ironic that the preacher “scowled” at Candide before he was even able to speak, then refused to help him as soon as he found that Candide didn’t share his exact beliefs. The modern equivalent to this can be seen in televangelists. Multiple televangelists have been accused of using donations towards their own expenses (John Oliver Pressures IRS for Televangelist Crackdown), betraying the principles of Christianity much like the preacher in Holland.
Voltaire also draws attention to the sexual promiscuity that was common in the clergy during Voltaire’s lifetime. The character of the Grand Inquisitor is used to show religious hypocrisy in another way; as a member of a clergy he is expected to be celibate or at the very least not partake in sexual activity outside of wedlock yet he purchases Cunegonde as a sex slave (Voltaire 32). While Candide does a wonderful job at pointing out the faults in members of the church, due to the time period and location of its publication it rarely mentions religions besides Christianity only briefly addressing Judaism.
Today, Christianity isn’t as dominating in the west; there is much more diversity in religious background nd more religious conflict with extremists of each religion like radical Christians attacking planned parenthood (For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack) or radical jihad terrorism. As religion is a major target of Voltaire in Candide, it would be imperative to focus on multiple religions that affect our day-to-day life in a modern adaptation. Scientific and technological advances would have to be added as well.
With the addition of social media, “fake news” and “alternative facts” people’s personal views can be more widely spread and believed to be true. People like Dr Pangloss could advertize their hilosophy more easily and could very much be labeled as “fake news”. In addition to easily accessing other’s beliefs, Candide would be able to see what it’s like outside of the castle before he left unless the Westphalia monarchy had strict censorship laws that filter what news and information is accessible to citizens like Candide.
In that case, modifications could be made to mock harsh censorship as well, something that Voltaire was very familiar with (Voltaire). Candide not being able to access outside information would leave him ignorant to life outside of Westphalia, keeping the plot the same. This would present pportunity to mock tyrannical governments that still exist today or leaders that prefer to ignore outside conditions of the world. With modern day science, the controversy of science versus religion is much more prominent than it was in the 18th century.
As an empiricist and the significant other of a scientist (Voltaire and Emilie Du Chatelet), Voltaire greatly valued experiments and facts over blind faith and belief in rationalism. In the city of Eldorado Candide learns that the citizens never pray and have a “Palace of Science” (64). While Rationalism by that name is not notable in the twenty-first century, the religious elief that all events are in “God’s plan” (100 Bible Verses about Gods Plan) are strikingly similar.
This reason has been cited in religious arguments over abortion, that a pregnancy–even if it is dangerous for the parents–should never be aborted as it is in “God’s plan” (The Bible’s Teaching Against Abortion). The majority of scientists have stated that if abortion is done right and by professionals there is no killing of a child. If Candide were made to include more modern sociological matters, the topic of homosexuality would have to be expanded on. Voltaire makes very brief references to homosexuality in Candide: The
Baron’s son was found by a reverend who found him “very pretty” (Voltaire 52) and in Dr Pangloss’ chain of people who contracted syphilis he mentions a jesuit who contracted the disease from a shipmate of Christopher Colombus (Voltaire 24). Voltaire himself was actually very familiar to what at the time was labeled as “sodomy” Many close acquaintances of his were known “sodomites” and some of his biographers believe that he himself was bisexual (Mitford 65). His own views on homosexuality were liberal for the time: he believed that homosexuals were in fact natural and not “sick” which was a dissident view.
Keeping in mind Voltaire’s own views and sexuality, the church’s views, and Voltaire’s relationship with the church, it would be natural to acknowledge homosexuality more prominently and its struggle with religion in a modern Candide. Candide is a timeless story and can easily be applied to multiple time periods and cultures including 21st century America. Voltaire creates caricatures of the devout religious and rationalists to provide his commentary on the world he lived in. He used irony to show the brutality of war and mock the militaristic. All situations discussed by Voltaire are still relevant only slight modifications need to be made.