Pointed first, last, and mostly at the classic philosophical notion of Gottfried Leibniz‘s Essays of Theodicy on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, Candide the novella lampoons Leibniz through the philosophical transformation of the character Candide from indoctrinated follower of mentor Professor Pangloss’ “best of all possible worlds” and instead chooses to see the end resolution as one where “we must cultivate our own garden,” a calling out of self-reliance rather than an Edenic result.
Voltaire brings his satiric wit that aims to parody the adventure-romance plot that we saw in part with the recent book review of The Three Musketeers. The rapidly articulated yet detailed series of horrible events that Candide encounters is obviously tongue-in-cheek for having been so vast and overwhelming within such a short span of storytelling. Characters nearly and neatly escaping death over and over tells anyone willing to think about what is happening with the compounding psychological of each tells you to laugh and see that larger, satiric points are being made.
Further attacks are taken against European governments contemporary to the novella’s 1759 publication. The Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic church is also lampooned. The singling out of an El Dorado on earth, when taken in positive contrast to mostly everything else in the novella, points to the fact that nothing is so good as this while certainly the rest is not as bad as it is declared. None of the characters could realistically be as two-dimensional as they are presented unless, as should be clear, they were drawn as such by authorial intent.
Overall, the novella Candide is pithy, witty, and tackles serious subjects with an irreverence that mostly hits the mark. As some point out elsewhere, the piece is perhaps Voltaire’s most influential accomplishment. My overall ranking is 3.5-stars out-of-5.
Matt – Monday, March 13, 2017