Candide is the story of a young man, Candide, who is taught by Pangloss, his professor of "metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology," that there is no effect without a cause and that everything is for the best. Candide, who believes these teachings as he starts out in his life, comes into contact with many horrors and hardships because he never does anything to help himself for he believes that everything that happens is for the best and that everything will work out. It is only at the end of his journeys that he finally turns to Pangloss and says, "That is well said, but we must cultivate our garden." The characters of the story are all representative of the folly in optimism and religion. Candide and Pangloss are the optimists who maintain that "everything is for the best" despite witnessing horrible events, seemingly one after another. Robbed, beaten, cheated, and even executed the enthusiastic optimists patiently endure and carry on assuming that it all serves a purpose unbeknownst to them. The gullibility of these characters reaches an almost annoying level, a surefire attempt of the author to point out the foolishness in blindly following without first questioning the quest. Contrasting this mentality are the pessimistic characters, portrayed more as realists than as misanthropes. The old woman, Cacambo, and Martin have experienced firsthand the severe ups and downs of life, and they end up taking a more somber view of existence than do the optimists. Voltaire strategically placed these characters as the voices of reason to the daft Candide, who frequently took notice of their good
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Honestly I don't think this book has anything to do with religion, right or wrong. Any type of theorizing, philosophy, formal religion, or even societal emphasis on what is important is represented as something negative. For example, all church figures are corrupt, philosophers Pangloss and Martin no matter what their opinions are either ignorant or miserable. The happiest (and eventually model) character is the farmer, who thinks and works for himself. Voltaire was jaded by the corruption of religion and hopeless optimism of philosophy and ... Read more →
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