What was the historical significance of Voltaire's 'Candide' and it's relevance during the Enlightenment?

Essay by Geraldine Maguire April 2005

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What was the historical significance of Voltaire's 'Candide'

and it's relevance during the Enlightenment?

In his work, Candide, Voltaire uses satire as a means of conveying his opinions about many aspects of European society in the eighteenth century, a period known as the Enlightenment. This Age of Reason swept through Europe, offering differing views on science, religion, and politics. The following essay will outline the philosophical theory of Pangloss, a character of the novel and suggest how his optimistic worldview is challenged by numerous disasters. I will also justify the reasons Voltaire attacks hypocrisy, most prevalent in religion, and displays the cruel actions of the priests, monks, and other religious leaders. In the novel his anger becomes obvious towards the church and the nobility. I will relate to findings how Voltaire expresses his views about society. His belief that the separation of class, hypocrisy of organized religion, rampant materialism, lack of Free Will, and deficiency of compassion for others, all contributed to the lack of human liberty in the eighteenth century.

Candide, a kind hearted man, is the leading character of the novel. He acknowledges the greed, violence, and cruelty of mankind, yet still offers kind and meaningful charity to those in need. He travels the world encountering a wide variety of misfortunes, all the while pursuing security and following Cunegonde, the woman he loves. She was of noble birth, the daughter of a German baron. 'Candide's tutor, Dr Pangloss, were maintaining that we live in the best of all possible worlds, where everything is connected and arranged for the best.' His optimistic belief is the primary target of the novel's satire. For him man is the creator of his own world and his sense of morality should guide him. He believed: 'Individual misfortunes create general welfare, so...