The Man • Pen Name • Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778) • Middle-Class • Jesuit education (Christian male religious order of the Catholic Church) • “Jesuits are known for their work in education (founding schools, colleges, universities and seminaries), intellectual research, and cultural pursuits, and for their missionary efforts. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes and promote social justice…”
The Controversy • Wanted to gain attention of Parisian “high society” • Exiled at age 22 for satirical, anti-aristocratic writing • Political prisoner at the Bastille (the state prison) • 1718, exiled to suburbs of Paris, adopted pen name VOLTAIRE. • Further imprisonment/exile.
Leader • Became a leader in the “great Enlightenment battle” against prejudice & blind acceptance. • Devoted life to the critique of traditional/received authority. • Moto: “Ecasezl’infame!” (Crush Infamy!) [The phrase Voltaire said that the infamy he meant was superstition, but many have interpreted it as referring to clericalism or organized religion.] • Welcomed in London; he met Locke, Pope, and Swift there.
More on Voltaire • Upon return to France from England, he lived with the philosopher Madame du Chatelet. • Spent 15 years living in a “menage a trois” with her & her husband. • Fell back into favor with high society. • Left France after Chatelet’s death, but returned in 1759, continuing to spread revolutionary ideas. • In 1778, returned to Paris again to see the opening of his last play and met Ben Franklin; he was celebrated at the end of his life.
Remembered • His remains are enshrined at the Pantheon in a secular temple dedicated to “Great Men”.
Philosophy • Deist • Pro-religious freedom • Anti-tyrannical government • “Fortune’s Wheel” analogy: Ups & Downs • “Candide” reflects all of the above.
“Candide” or “Optimism” • Written 1759 • Voltaire was 65, famous • REASON & FREEDOM • Is a critique of the philosophy of G.W. von Leibnez, a German theorist who argued that God had created “the best of all possible worlds” and Alexander Pope, who declared that “whatever is right is right.” • Best seller; most widely taught work of French Literature. • Inspired other works; example: Bertein’s operetta
Satire • “Candide” is satire. • Attacks widespread idealist system of philosophical OPTIMISM. • One of Voltaire’s biggest criticisms was that this philosophy justified human suffering as a “necessary” part of “cosmic order.” • Story is a parody of a romance, the genre featuring “amazing adventures, disguises, enslavements, escapes, miraculous reunions, etc. • Exposes the irrationality of this genre.
More on the Story • Stresses EXPERIENCE as the ultimate means to truth. • Personal Experience + Judgment = Knowledge. • Challenged received wisdom & authority. • Represents this Enlightenment shift in thinking. • The story is also a Philosophical Tale: An intellectual critique of society told through allegory and light fiction. Voltaire was an originator of this kind of work.
Bildungsroman • BILDUNGSROMAN, from the German, “formation novel.” This is a “genre that focuses on psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.” • Tracks the CHANGES in the protagonist. • Has formal, topical, and thematic features:“ABildungsroman tells about the growing up or coming of age of a sensitive person who is looking for answers and experience. The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest son going out in the world to seek his fortune. Usually in the beginning of the story there is an emotional loss which makes the protagonist leave on his journey. In a Bildungsroman, the goal is maturity, and the protagonist achieves it gradually and with difficulty. The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society – the protagonist's mistakes and disappointments are over. In some works, the protagonist is able to reach out and help others after having achieved maturity.”
Historical Events • The Seven Years War (a world war that took place from 1756-1763) • 1755 Lisbon Earthquake that took place on All Saints Day. • These events called into questions the prevailing philosophical notion of OPTIMISIM. • Voltaire (and others) found it difficult to reconcile Christian optimism with the horrors of the world. • Sees these events as the act of a cruel or indifferent god. • Ideas are manifested in his character “Pangloss.”
More • Voltaire rejected Leibniz’s theory of optimism: “If God made the best of all possible worlds, then surely it would be better than this!” • Who is Candide? • “He was quite sound in his judgment, and he had the most straightforward of minds. It is for this reason… that he was called Candide.” • While living a sheltered life, he is indoctrinated with optimism by his mentor Pangloss.
Motif • The GARDEN is the most prominent motif in the story; there are 3 main gardens: • 1. The Baron’s Castle (from which he and Cunegonde are evicted, much like Adam and Eve)– “the forbidden kiss.” • 2. Eldorado (symbolic of a “false Eden”). • 3. The garden Candide makes at the end of the story (symbolic of paradise). • In the end, Voltaire rejects optimism, instead advocating: “We must cultivate our garden.”
Characters • Archetypal (ideal, model example): • Candide (the drifter, the low social class rogue) • Cundegonde (the love/sex interest) • Pangloss (the intellectual mentor) • Martin (the cynical scholar) • Cacambo (the practical, skillful valet) • There are SO many characters in the story. Who was your favorite? Why?
Other Motifs • Resurrection:Cunegonde/Pangloss/the Baron • Each resurrected figure represents a “harmful aspect of human nature”: shallowness & fickleness, folly, and arrogance. Maybe his message is that these traits NEVER DIE. ? • Rape & Sexual Exploitation: Graphic; nonchalant reaction. Shows the vulnerability of women and hypocrisy of society. • Political & Religious Oppression
THEMES • 1. The folly of optimism. • 2. Uselessness of philosophical speculation. • 3. Hypocrisy of religion. • Corrupting power of money. • *Discuss each. • “It is demonstrable that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles.”
Quotes • "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." --- Voltaire, Sept discours en verssurl'homme • "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one." --- Voltaire , letter (to Frederick the Great, 1767) • "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." --- Voltaire , letter (1770) [This seems to be the closest thing Voltaire ever actually said to the statement often attributed to him: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Those words were used by S.G. Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906) to paraphrase Voltaire's reaction to the condemnation of Helvetius's De l'esprit ( On the Mind ).]
More Quotes • "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." --- Voltaire, "Epitre a l'auteur du livre des troisimposteurs" "Marriage is the only adventure open to the timid." --- Voltaire , Pensees d'un Philosophe • "All is for the best in the best of possible worlds." --- Voltaire , Candide • "That is well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our garden." --- Voltaire , Candide • "There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times." --- Voltaire , letter (1761) • "Common sense is not so common." --- Voltaire , Philosophical Dictionary • "Work keeps at bay three great evils: boredom, vice, and need." --- Voltaire , Candide