Candide is a philosophical story set around the world in 18th century. It depicted a young man who lived in a paradise-like country of Westphalia. He was brought up by a Baron, and fell in love with the Baron’s daughter, the fair Cunégonde. Candide was educated by a philosopher called Pangloss. Pangloss believed that all in the world is created for the best, so even if there are evil and catatstrophe, they are meant to lead mankind to something better at the end. With this philosophy stick on his brain, Candide took his journey around the world after being kicked out by the Baron for seducing Cunégonde.
Having been experiencing real life, the innocent Candide was confronted with so many unfortunate events, evil, corrupt men, greed, and deception. All those times he was bewildered at the evils and injustices, and started questioning whether Pangloss had taught him wrong. Candide even held to his believe in “pure nature is good” principle, although he had just escaped of being eaten by the Oreillons, thanks to Pangloss’ principle.
As a novella, Candide is very uniquely written by Voltaire. If you have ever read Baudolino by Umberto Eco, you will see a style similarity with Candide. Both Candide and Baudolino involved in not only one historical event, but hopping to many of them through some comical and absurd incidents. Like Baudolino, Candide also sailed to many countries, met historical important persons, and presented with many cultures and religions during his journey to unite with Cunégonde. But only at El Dorado that Candide found only happiness and beauty. He was even be made richer than any Kings on earth because all soil and pebbles in El Dorado were made from gold and other precious stones (for outsider) but were treated as just soil and pebbles.
I think it is clear that Voltaire wanted to criticize Leibniz’ theory of “all is for the best”. This German philosopher believed that all is for the best because God is perfect, so everything He created must be perfect. I thought about this long after I finished this novella—and am still thinking about it when I am writing this post. My thought is split in two reasoning. In one way I agree with Voltaire that men should not take his life for granted by expecting that at the end everything should turn to good; we must work hard for it. But on the other hand, I agree at some points—at some points only—with Leibniz’ theory too, that God always provides the best for us, He wants to give us only the best, but only if we truly believe in Him and want it.
So what is best is, I think, if we do our best, and let God do the rest. In a way Candide (or Voltaire) was right, we must work to gain happiness. But we must also realize that we do not know what is best for ourselves, and in that case, we must trust God that He will give us what is best.
And before I end this review, here is one passage that has intrigued me, it’s a discussion between Martin (one of Candide’s philosopher and friend) and Candide, of course at the same topic of the optimistic. Candide was asking Martin whether he believed that men have always done evils.
M: “Do you believe that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?”
C: “Yes, without doubt.”
M: “Well, then, if hawks have always had the same character, why should you imagine that men may have changed theirs?”
C: “Oh! There is a vast deal of difference, for free will—“
There Voltaire ended the discussion abruptly, but I disagree with Martin. He believed that evil was men’s character, and that was—just like in hawks—their nature; and that the world has been created to ‘plague us to death’. I believe that since God is good and perfect, He created us good, and meant us for the best. However, God grants us the free will—as Candide was about to mention in that discussion—to make the choice ourselves, to be good or evil. Men do have both good and evil in them, but we also have the free will to make choices.
I granted three stars for Candide as a story with all the funny comical adventures, and a half star for making me drown to a deep reflection about life. Thank you Voltaire!
*I read ebook from Gutenberg Project*
*This book is counted for*
34th book for The Classics Club Project
2nd book for New Authors Reading Challenge 2013
5th book for What's In a Name Reading Challenge2013