Synopsis

Candid: Not a typical journey searching for lost love.

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Everything having been made for a purpose is necessarily for the best purpose. Both an ingenious satire on the philosophy of optimism and a social critique on the foolishness of mankind, the story is revealed through the journeys and experiences of the honest but shortsighted protagonist, Candide. When Candide is banished from his home for having an affair with the Baron’s lovely daughter Ms. Cunegonde, his real adventure begins. Motivated by the prospect of being reunited with the love of his life and determined to apply the theories of optimism to the environment around him, Candide travels the world. However, as his restless journey takes him all the way from the warring nation of Westphalia to the utopian land of Eldorado and back, he comes face to face with the horrific evils of society and human nature. Experiencing everything from forced military service, earthquakes, poverty, murder, and theft, Candide begins to doubt the naïve theories of optimism. As his journey unfolds, tears are shed for the unfortunate ends that meet some of our favorite characters while we rejoice for the good fortune of others. The paths of the characters continually intertwine as their fates combine to produce experiences that teach philosophical ideals and moral lessons. A masterpiece in terms of storytelling, style, and significance, Candide grants us with more than just an entertaining plot; it allows us to evaluate human nature and look at society from a critical perspective.

Review

A "Classic" Disappointment


Known for its profound philosophical ideas, effective use of satire, and captivating storyline, Voltaire’s Candide always remains at the top of the required reading list for many educational institutions. It is constantly praised as a classic that revolutionized not only ideas during its time period it but also ideas that are still applicable in contemporary society. However, though there is some legitimacy to these statements, it may be that its “greatness” is only a product of constant support and praise by people with PhDs. The book is given more credit than it is worth.
I would have to agree that the story itself is extremely well-written. Considering that it was published in 1759, the language is not only easy, but also very accessible. There are very few words that are difficult to understand within the context of the passages. Furthermore, the satirical tone achieved by the effective use of irony is one of the greatest aspects of the story. The fact that a point can be made with humor as a byproduct contributes to both the entertainment and philosophical impact of the story. I thought Voltaire was also very successful in working his way around the strict censorship laws of the time period. Many aspects of the plot were implied, but it was still fairly easy to discern what was going on.
Nonetheless, as I came closer to completing the “classic” I could not help but feel a little disappointed by what I was reading. Indeed it was a great story, but not as great as I had expected. It may be that I was expecting too much from the waves of positive feedback about the novel, but I didn’t find the story to be particularly good in any way. It had an entertaining plot, but only because it was a series of outrageous experiences strewn together. It had character development, but all the characters shared similar stories of misfortune and soon became repetitive. The resolution was an interesting twist to the generally monotonous plot outline, but it was still somewhat predictable.
It is my personal belief that Candide is mainly considered a classic only because someone named it “classic” and nobody challenged that perspective. Indeed, it is a work of art that was way ahead of its time (1759), but the book itself did not strike me as much greater than some of the pieces of literature that can be found at the “Big Sale!” section in a local bookstore.

About the Author

Voltaire was the pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778). Born on November 21, 1694 to a middle class family in Paris, Voltaire’s early life was characterized by intensive studying. His father wanted him to pursue a career in law, but Voltaire soon developed a greater passion for writing. Despite the heavy censorship laws of the contemporary time period, Voltaire wrote many poems and essays criticizing established institutions and advocating social change. His most influential and popular work was undoubtedly Candide, which was strategically published in multiple nations at once to optimize circulation.
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Links

Candide Book Review .