Voltaire's "Candide" and Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": vehicles for satire

Essay by sdubuque43College, UndergraduateA-, December 2006

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Throughout Voltaire's Candide and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, the main characters of the works (Candide and Gulliver respectively) serve as vehicles for satire through which the authors can convey their views. It is important to note that both Candide and Gulliver serve as irons throughout the book; that is to say, the reader is shown irony through the actions of these characters, while at the same time the characters are naïve and remain oblivious to their situation (on a satiric level, at least).

Candide is a humorous tale by Voltaire satirizing the optimism promoted by the philosophers of Enlightenment era. Throughout his travels, Candide adheres to the teachings of his tutor, Pangloss, believing that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Candide is essentially Voltaire's answer to what he saw as an absurd belief proposed by the so-called "enlightened" optimists of his era.

Voltaire simply refused to believe that what happens is always for the best.

The attack on the statement that things are for "the best of all possible worlds" is a recurring theme throughout the entire novel, in which references to this claim satirically contrast with natural disaster and human wrongdoing. When reunited with the now-diseased Pangloss, Candide asks if the Devil is at fault. Pangloss simply responds that "the disease was a necessity in 'the best of all possible worlds', for it was brought to Europe by Columbus' men, who also brought chocolate and cochineal, two greater goods that well offset any negative effects of the disease'".

Eventually though, due to a great number of misfortunes, Candide begins to "see through" the blind optimism to the sheer hopelessness of Pangloss' philosophy. Voltaire concludes the book by having Candide discover that "...work keeps us from three great evils; boredom, vice and...