Book Review: A Close-Reading of Candide by Voltaire
Through the novel Candide, Voltaire conclusively criticizes the society by employing various language patterns and imagery styles revolving around the central theme of societal morality. The book which is published in 1759 originally with a French setting, conclusively addresses the various failed moral issues of the society using carefully balanced patterns of language and motifs. Most of the settings are real, for instance the places mentioned in Europe, whereas some of the settings like Eldorado are purely fictional. Voltaire enlightens the reader of the novel in issues regarding superstition, far-fetched pride, hypocrisy and prostitution resulting from sexual immorality; without much trouble of toleration by the readers. The patterns exhibited in the novel are predictable as they all point out to an unfortunate eventuality for all the characters involved. It is highly suggestive that the author is cleverly employed the styles of imagery and other literary devices to enlighten the reader on failed societal morals turned vices.
Candide Voltaire Review
Humor has been extensively used throughout the novel to harmonize the direct embers of the brutally designed criticism by the author, making it one of the basic styles. Voltaire has employed several elements of comedy and humor to express the unfulfilled dreams that have turned into failure. Even the church is not spared through the cheeky dig aimed at it in the instances where the Pope fathers an illegitimate girl child who eventually ends up a rot herself. This impressive work is managed by the structure; characterization and style that have been successfully used by the author to present his opinions and ideologies in some humorous way. One humor that stands up of all is the naming of the various persona and characters which bear distinctively funny names that match up their characteristics and behavior as portrayed in the novel. These names also go hand in hand with the situations in which the characters find themselves.
The characters in the novel unwillingly reveal part of their characters that they would not want to show to the outside world. Cunegonde, the Baron’s son, is not capable of concealing his gay sensuality and characteristics. Pangloss, on the other hand, refuses to admit that he is wrong, but this can be all shown in his talk and actions. They unwittingly express what they would like to hide. Cunégonde is unable to conceal her sensuality. The Baron’s son is unable to hide his homosexual tendencies. The humor goes a bit over the line into crazy comics in other instance like the frustration of the eunuch, the experimental physics, the vulgar and disgusting relationship between the two beautiful ladies and the monkeys; and the supposedly missing bottom of the daughter of the Pope. However, the author has found a humorous way to make these instances comical and can be withstood by the reader.
Apart from the comic and humorous approach to the style of writing, Voltaire has also used mockery and examples of irony. The ironical lifestyle of the alleged Pope’s daughter is the primary instance here. She does not see anything weird with the option of suicide even after her sinful lifestyle. This behavior is opposed to that which is expected of somebody of her status in the society. The Pope having a daughter in itself is a huge irony concerning the church’s principles regarding that position. Apart from the several unconvincing trials of comedy in the novel, the author has used various instances of irony, for example, the description of the over-optimism of some of the characters. An instance is the incredible and incredibly ridiculous near death escape of the Baron’s son and Pangloss; the victory song by the kings; and the situation involving the second earthquake following auto-da-fe.
The importance of symbolism is overemphasized as a great literary device employed by the author to enlighten the reader through suggestive language bringing clarity and vivid descriptions. Eldorado has been portrayed as a symbol of the typically admired residence that exhibits happiness and perfection in equal measure. Paris, on the other hand, represents a place of discontentment and chaotic events. For instance, it is in Paris that Candide catches some illness and therefore negatively portrays the French society. The author in person also expresses his unhappiness in France as compared to England, as Candide does.
Just as the name suggests, Candide is portrayed as an innocent and naïve personality with an incredibly charming personality compared to the other characters. He innocently admires Cunegonde , an individual who is later his main cause of decay and decline. Paquette, on the other hand, represents the illness and filth of the society through her role as a prostitute as portrayed in the twelfth chapter of the novel. Through this, she contracts Syphilis and infects Pangloss. She is the Pope’s daughter who later exhibits heathen traits by doubting the very existence of God after her predicaments in life. Voltaire’s wish for the decadence of aristocratic rule is symbolized by the murder of the Baron and the torching of his castle. He could not have hoped for a better fate owing to his predicaments in the hands of the aristocratic regime.
The author also expresses the transition pattern from youth to old age through the character of Cunegonde who is angelic and lovely at the novel’s beginning but grows weary and ugly toward the end. She is the lady with the admirable beauty any man would wish for but later depreciates to nothing in a fashion likened to the plight in shattered dreams and failed ambitions in the life an individual or society. The transition of life is portrayed by her character as a long but concise path that can be determined by the person living the life. It is more of make or break kind of decision that Cunegonde has eventually fallen to latter option. The author portrays the morass in a single entity as the cause of the eventual rot of the whole society. Such rot begins with the brainwashing of the consciousness of admirable characters like Candide.
The extensive use of patterns of literary styles of imagery and symbolism has been successfully employed to explicitly expose the common vices in the current society and equally educate the reader on the appropriate approaches to make on such occasions. As much as there are specific instances of immorality in the text, the author has successfully covered it up and presented it on silver lining using imagery, symbolism, and satire override among other styles. The satire in at the societal norms of philosophies, religious beliefs and natural phenomena is brutally outstanding. In the initial chapters, the characters are finding it hard to live by the facts surrounding their lives and are rather clouded in hypocrisy and self-pride instead of the truth. These habits of pretense eventually lead them to the root of their personality and ultimate desperation. However, with time, their characters are revealed by natural causes and even by themselves unwillingly, making foolery out of them. The vices and filth associated with various societies at the time of publication of the novel are also shown. The French capital of Paris has been repetitively cited as capital for bad omen and misfortune due to the illnesses of Candide and even the author in person. It is associated with bad morals such as prostitution and homosexuality. The England and Eldorado specifically are on the other hand viewed as distinct places of relief and a great experience. Generally, the use of simple and criticism language that dates back to this particular period in time has been effective in bringing out the moral rot in every aspect of the society and the transitions that lead to it. Going through the novel one can barely feel the effects of the brutality and vulgarity of the choice of words thanks to the careful and successful employment of satire for a major part of the novel.
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