Discussion Post: Candide
Challengers, welcome! I hope you all enjoyed Candide, and if you did, remember that commenting on this post or writing a post on your own blog qualifies you for our Penguin Clothbound Classics drawing. Next week, we’re discussing Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, but first let’s finish off Candide!
- What do you think of the character of Candide? Is he a dolt, or is he at least somewhat sympathetic? Is there any character you either love or absolutely cannot stand? Why?
Poor Candide. I was so convinced he was an idiot at the beginning of this work, and now I’m less certain. He loses a great deal of his naivety early in the story; as early as page 29, Candide wonders how he can possibly be living in the best of worlds. Page 61 finds Candide excited about the prospect of Eldorado as a paradise, saying, “…despite what Dr. Pangloss used to say, I often noticed that everything went rather badly in Westphalia.”
Seven pages later, Candide abandons Pangloss’s philosophy entirely when faced with slavery in the new world. By the end of the tale, he’s decided that we must “cultivate our garden[s],” or that we must work to make our own lives the best they can be. Candide undergoes a profound development of character throughout the story, and any character capable of that kind of maturity and growth cannot be pathetic.
As for other characters — I loved Martin to excess, despite (or perhaps because of) his cynicism.
- Voltaire’s intent is pretty clear: to satirize Leibnizian optimism. But do you think he is as effective as he could be? Why (or why not)?
This question is a little unfair, as I’m reading what I suspect to be a rather sloppy translation. In addition, the style of the story is characteristic of the eighteenth century; fans of Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe will know what I mean. Candide travels through countries and situations at a breakneck pace, with very little description to help the reader understand where Candide is at any given moment. “Picaresque” is the word I should probably use.
However, Voltaire is nothing if not effective. As far as persuasive tales go, this one has entirely convinced me that with all of this evil, how can we be living in the best of all possible worlds? Not a single example is overdrawn or unbelievable; women really did (and still do, sometimes) get raped and disemboweled by soliders, slavery exists, people are hanged (or otherwise killed) for crimes they may not have committed.
It’s a little contrived that all of these things happen to one man and the people he knows, but otherwise, this story is incredibly convincing.
But that’s just my opinion….what did you think? Tell us all about it in the comments!