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Essay/Term paper: Voltaire's candide: one man's search for true happiness and acceptance of life's disappointments

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Research Papers

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Voltaire's Candide: One Man's Search For True Happiness and Acceptance of Life's
Disappointments


Voltaire's Candide is a philosophical tale of one man's search for true
happiness and his ultimate acceptance of life's disappointments. Candide grows
up in the Castle of Westfalia and is taught by the learned philosopher Dr.
Pangloss. Candide is abruptly exiled from the castle when found kissing the
Baron's daughter, Cunegonde. Devastated by the separation from Cunegonde, his
true love, Candide sets out to different places in the hope of finding her and
achieving total happiness. The theme of Candide is that one must strive to
overcome adversity and not passively accept it in the belief that all is for
the best.
Candide's misfortune begins when he is kicked out of the castle and
experiences a series of horrible events. Candide is unable to see anything
positive in his ordeals, contrary to Dr. Pangloss' teachings that there is a
cause for all effects and that, though we might not understand it, everything
is all for the good.
Candide's endless trials begin when he is forced into the army simply because
he is the right height, five feet five inches. In the army he is subjected to
endless drills and humiliations and is almost beaten to death. Candide escapes
and, after being degraded by good Christians for being an anti-Christ, meets a
diseased beggar who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. Dr. Pangloss informs him
that Bulgarian soldiers attacked the castle of Westfalia and killed Cunegonde -
more misery!
A charitable Anabaptist gives both Candide and Dr. Pangloss money and
assistance. Dr. Pangloss is cured of his disease, losing one of his eyes and
one of his ears. The Anabaptist takes them with him on a journey to Lisbon.
While aboard the ship, the Anabaptist falls overboard in the process of
rescuing a crew member. Candide finds it more and more difficult to accept Dr.
Pangloss' principle that all is for the best.
In Lisbon there is an earthquake which kills thousands of people,
throwing the city into ruins. Later, Dr. Pangloss is hung as part of an auto-
de-fe. Candide is miraculously taken in by an old woman and is brought to his
love, Cunegonde. She tells him of the torture she suffered and how she barely
survived. She further explains that she was "shared" by a Jew named Don
Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor. Candide kills the two men and escapes with
Cunegonde and the old woman.
At this point we begin to see Candide struggling and fighting to make
his existence worthwhile, in the hope that he and Cunegonde would marry and
live happily ever after. We saw Candide taking matters into his own hands,
instead of accepting his fate, when he killed Cunegonde's two lovers. At this
point one begins to see his maturity from a naive young man into a realist.
Candide's travels take him to "the new world" where he hopes that Dr.
Pangloss' theory might be justified. Candide finds people of wealth who are
bored and still unhappy. When he finds a nation of happy people he learns that
they must be secluded from the rest of the world to preserve their happiness.
Cunegonde leaves Candide for a man of wealth but that turns out to be the
beginning of her ruin. Candide is robbed of great wealth and, when he tries to
help others, he finds that they are not appreciative of his efforts.
Candide's doubts about Dr. Pangloss' theory continue to grow. He learns to
make his own happiness, battling hardships.
At the end of the book, Candide is reunited with Dr. Pangloss who gave
Candide details of how he survived his hanging. They go off in search of
formerly beautiful Cunegonde who had become fat, ugly and bitter. Nevertheless,
he had vowed to marry her and so he does. The reader might expect that now
Candide would be happy, having realized his dream of marrying his own true love,
Cunegonde and being reunited with his teacher and mentor, Dr. Pangloss.
Candide is not happy! He no longer loves Cunegonde and no longer believes in
the principles of his teacher.
Throughout Voltaire's Candide we see how accepting a situation and not
trying to change or overcome obstacles is damaging. What comes to mind, for me,
is the attitude of many Jews during the Holocaust. While there was mass murder
and torture of innocent people the world's countries did nothing. Even the
victims themselves rarely fought against the tyranny. If only people accepted
that they have the power, in many instances, to influence their fate, not
accept reality, waiting for things to change, history might have turned out
differently. We learn that in life there will be many obstacles which can and
should be overcome. Life has its struggles but it would be a miserable place
if people passively accepted that everything was for the best, shrugging off
responsibility. We see, in contrast to Dr. Pangloss, Odysseus in Homer's The
Odyssey, is a man of great courage who masters all situations and even searches
for new adventures and challenges.
Voltaire believes that people should not allow themselves to be victims.
He sneers at naive, accepting types, informing us that people must work (be
active) to make their happiness.



 

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