Candide Study Guide

Candide Study Guide

Despite the fact that “Candide” title has many translation variations, it is still a one of the most famous and studied works of French Literature. Be it “All For The Best” or “The Optimist” – this satirical text was originally banned due to harsh criticism towards religion, politics, and morals of the time.

Voltaire wrote a parody that is also based on historical context. It is a fervent fantasy that imitates an adventure story and moral preaching traditions so common for the 18th century. The novel is an open satire on the Leibniz philosophy. It also demonstrates how diverse and ambiguous the Enlightenment movement was in the midst of its establishment.

The protagonist of the story grows up in a well-off family in his own castle in Germany. He is mentored by Professor Pangloss, who is a fierce adherer of the positivist movement. The teacher is convinced that we live in the best of the best worlds possible and everything that happens to us has more positive sides than negatives ones.

The characters of the story encounter all kinds of hardships in their life, either due to family curse or their own stupid decisions. They are beaten up, thrown into jail, cheated, hung up, drowned, kidnapped by pirates. Nevertheless, they continue to live with their heads up, collecting the misfortunes heading their way.

Should they look for positives sides of their experiences or draw conclusions and change behavior? There’s no right or wrong answer. It certainly doesn't help to be gloomy and disgusted.

Some call Voltaire cynical and cruel. Others prefer not to dramatize and look for too much meaning behind the allegorical sentences of the author. The fact is: there are all kinds of people and institutions describes in this short text. Governments and churches, religion and philosophy, theologians and soldiers, men and women. Each reader will find his or her own interpretations of them.

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