Voltaire who was a French writer, philosopher and one of the leaders of the Enlightenment is known as one of the greatest satirist ever. Voltaire wrote about important genres: tragedy, history, philosophy and fiction just as his English contemporary Samuel Johnson. American heritage dictionary defines satire as, “An artistic work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. Irony or caustic wit used to expose or attack human folly. ” The satirist adopts a critical attitude and usually presents his material with wit and humor. Voltaire uses many literary writing tools to share his views.
Voltaire reasons for using satire is because he believes it is entertaining which many at time also agreed with him. During this time, many great authors wrote about things that they believed to be interesting for others to read. Voltaire was a big believer in writing about things that really happen to others. Some of the tools he uses are irony, symbolism and satire. The point I will be talking about is satire. Voltaire choices satire because this way he can make a joke out of serious matters such as death, rape, and murder. Through his satire, Voltaire sometimes expressed outrage, and other times he was playful.
This is the literary term he uses the most of the time. Voltaire targets of satire are many and varied. Three topics Voltaire uses satire for are philosophical optimism, religion and greed. I will be focusing my paper on these three ideas. Voltaire was a serious man but felt it was important to entertain others by using humor as long as he thought it was funny. Voltaire’s main purpose in writing Candide was to demolish the theory of Optimism, and that is why is used exaggeration. To oppose optimism Voltaire used a variety of forms. The one that proved to be most effective was satire.
Gottfried and Leibnitz, the German philosopher, provides Voltaire’s most specific target in Candide, with the complexities of his version of optimism reduced for satiric purposes to be facile formula. ” (World Masterpieces 316) Leibnitz thought that everything had a cause and an effect. He believed that for everything that happened there was something else that would follow due to the previous. Through Voltaire’s experiences, he came to realize that not everything was for the best. In the story, irrational ideas are taught to the main character, Candide about optimistic versus the reality of the rest of the world.
Out of every unfortunate situation in the story, his philosopher-teacher advised Candide that everything in the world happens for a reason. “Private misfortunes contribute to the general good, so the more private misfortunes there are, he more we find that all is well. ” (Voltaire 31) Pangloss was a devoted friend and an optimist who claims that there is no effect without a cause, and that everything has a purpose. Pangloss was not meant to be a direct attack on Leibnitz. Although Voltaire wanted people to realize how distorted Leibnitz idea was.
During the story, an earthquake strikes killing many. In reality, this is a horrific predicament to be involved in. In Pangloss’ world, “It is impossible for things not to be where they are, because everything is for the best. ”(Voltaire 35) Pangloss believed that the earthquake was necessary in the course of nature, so there was definitely a reason why it happened. Pangloss tries to defend his theories by determining the positive from the negative situation. As Candide grew up and encountered many unfortunate things Pangloss would turn the situation around, bring out the good in it.
Candide learns that optimism is “The passion for maintaining that all is that all is right when all goes wrong. ” (Voltaire 86) Every time Candide experienced some terrible danger and or suffering, he wondered if Doctor Pangloss might begin to doubt his own philosophy. Pangloss ultimately changed Candide’s optimistic philosophy. Pangloss preached that wherever one was it was the best possible place to be. Candide had questioned Pangloss on a number of occasions because he felt that there must be a better place to be when there is so much evil where he was.
Throughout his life, Candide was affected by optimism in many different ways. Voltaire exaggerates his point on optimism. There is nobody in reality that is so positive about everything all the time, especially about the horrible mishaps that Candide endured. As Candide grew older he became more independent and learned to form his own opinions, he would look at the world and sat exactly what he saw. He had learned to become his own person, to accept life for what it had to offer and that not everything had to be analyzed to decide whether it was good or bad.
In every situation where Pangloss was absent, Candide would refer to Pangloss’ spirit, “What would Pangloss think? ” Candide realized that “Pangloss cruelly deceived him when he told him that all is best in this world. ” (Voltaire 43) For a long time in Candide’s life, he believed strongly in optimism, not because he was forced to, but because he was raised in that manner. Another example of optimism is when Cacambo and Candide stumble upon El Dorado. Candide had been content with his home before stumbling upon El Dorado.
The optimism was quickly seen when the two men trade such a perfect society for power, gold, influence and jewels. Although, many people think they need money and jewels to be happy in life they are wrong. The many misfortunes that happened to Candide after leaving El Dorado have a lot to do with turning his back on the idea of optimism. Voltaire also uses satire when he talks about religion in Candide. He mocks religion because he believed that religious organizations, mostly the catholic Church were corrupt. Church was useless and designed to control people, while benefiting from its members at least that is what Voltaire thought.
Church is meant to bring people closer to their religion and even themselves, why he thought it corrupted people is what makes his arguments hard to comprehend. For Christianity, he would substitute deism, a purely rational religion. “Voltaire’s religion reflects the concurrence of a character and age” (Pomeau 140). Voltaire was a deist, “ for some sixty years he kept seeking historical and philosophical justification” (Pomeau 140). “Voltaire pleads for a true religion (on the model of Deism) that devoid power structure, politics and wealth- worship a God of mercy, humanity and tolerance” (Appelgate 9).
During Candide, he talks about the Inquisitor, the old women and El Dorado these are examples of how he uses satire while talking about religion. The Grand Inquisitor, who was a very significant member of the church, made some choices a man in his position should not act. He wanted Cunegonde as he own, Don Issachar who owned her now did not want to do that at all. Then the Inquisitor threatened him with an auto-de-fe. Therefore, the men decided to share her. The Old women who had done may bad things throughout her life is the daughter of a pope, almost hard to believe.
She lived a horrible life, she was the daughter of a pope one day the next she is kidnapped by pirates. Imagine watching your mother torn to pieces, then being sold from one person to another. El Dorado is this perfect place, still religious but no bishops, priests or monks to control people. How can a town be so religious but have no priests? In El Dorado, there is no such thing as organized religions, no courts or prisons, no poverty and complete equality. Even the king was treated as a normal citizen. I think it would be wonderful to live in a world where everyone was treated as equals.
Although we all know this will never be true, one can only dream In Candide, Voltaire analyzes the problems of evil in the world. Through his satire, Voltaire proves his point about greed being universal. To present greed as a devastating factor of society’s corruption, he uses satire. Greed is defined by American Heritage as, “ An excessive desire for more than one needs or deserves. ” In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Cunegonde. This is the woman that Candide is madly in love with. Later in the story, Cunegonde found that someone had stolen her money and jewels.
Without any proof or evidence she accused the reverend. She was sure the thief was the reverend; how is that something as money can corrupt a holly person into committing a sin. Cunegonde was ready to marry a man for money, not for love. Money is important but not enough to marry someone because they are rich. These are two examples of how he uses satire when talking about greed. He proves that greed is universal and usually ends in destruction. Greed usually does end in destruction because you get so greedy you can stop until everything is yours. Not everything can yours so you get upset and sometimes kill yourself.
Materials are just things and your happiness cannot be bought. While in El Dorado greed is seen when Candide overlooks how it is a perfect society because of the ideals they practice, and believes that the riches are the most important aspects. He knows that once he leaves he will never be able to return. I do not understand why he even had to give leaving El Dorado any thought. The woman he loved was not there so why would he stay. He made the right decision by leaving but he should not have had to think twice about it. I do not understand how money can be more important than happiness.
I know money helps but it sure does not buy your happiness. Voltaire’s use of satire throughout the story had a serious purpose. Satire was used during the Enlightenment as a means of entertainment. He uses satire as a means of pointing out the messed up things in society then as well as today. He makes these ideas seem less intolerable to the reader. Voltaire always had a serious intention behind the laughter in Candide. “Voltaire would be among today’s nonviolent protestors, blasting the Establishment with merciless satire, if he were well protected by friends in high places and invulnerable to consequences” ( Appelgate 12).
Voltaire sense of humor in Candide was serious but also funny at times. The time I think was the funniest when Candide sees the women running naked being chased by monkeys. Only to later find out that, the monkeys were the women’s lovers. Voltaire was able to defend either side in a debate. He maintained the idea that literature should be useful and concerned with the problems of everyday life. Satire is an important tool for many great writers past and present.