Candide is a novella. It is shorter than a regular novel. Though it is longer than a short story, some critics prefer to categorize it as a ‘Conte’ or a short story. Voltaire preferred writing short stories rather than follow the rigid literary rules of the classical tragedy or the epic poetry.
Voltaire was against the norms and ideas in the society of his time. He has exposed his rebellious thoughts through the veil of humor and imagination. There is a realistic message in the novel that remains lurking in the reader’s mind long after he or she has finished reading it. The novel is skillfully constructed.
Candide the hero is often personally involved in incidents. From total innocence he moves into the world of experience and maturity. Voltaire has carefully planned his journey throughout the novella. Candide initially moves Westwards in search of a New World. However, he finds that it is as bad as the old. He reaches Eldorado, which is like a paradise on earth. He soon goes away in search of Cunégonde. He moves eastwards till he finally reaches his goal. Finally, he decides to live on his farm and make his life reasonably happy through hardwork, honesty, and practicality.
Candide’s emotional development lends shape to the novel. In the beginning of the novel he is a terrified and helpless young man. He gradually develops courage and independence. He finally refuses to succumb to the threat of the Baron’s son. He politely but firmly disagrees with Pangloss. The highly sensitive Candide is able to take control of his emotions towards the end of the novel. He becomes much calmer and settles down to work.
The exposition of this novella begins in Chapter 1. The reader is introduced
to the Baron and his family, Candide and Pangloss. At the end of the chapter
Candide is thrown out of the castle by being kicked. He thus enters a
world of harshness and goes through many adventures throughout the novella.
The climax of the novella is reached in Chapter 29, when he finally finds
Cunégonde and is not separated from her. By now she has become
extremely ugly. Yet he is determined to do his duty. He does not reject
her. The outcome of the novel is seen in Chapter 30, which is the last
chapter of the novel. Realization of reality dawns on the characters present
in the last chapter. They realize that life cannot be all-pleasant. The
world is not a Garden of Eden. Yet people can be reasonably happy by taking
responsibility and working hard. Thus they work nicely and take responsibility
on Candide’s farm. These people are influenced by the Dervish’s teaching
who tells them that work drives away three great evils-boredom, vice,
and poverty. So far as the reader is concerned, the outcome of reading
this novella is this wonderful message given by Voltaire through the teaching
of the Dervish.
Voltaire has exposed the evils in his contemporary society in a satirical manner. Wherever, Candide goes he finds sin, selfishness and religious intolerance except in Eldorado. Atrocities are committed. The auto-da-fé shows ridiculous belief, due to which heretics are burnt to prevent earthquakes. The University of Coimbra states that the sight of a few people ceremoniously burned is an infallible prescription for preventing earthquakes. Thus people are burned for the most ridiculous reasons. A man is burned for marrying his Godchild’s grandmother; a Portuguese Jew is burned for not eating bacon. The auto-da-fé is an entertainment for the onlookers. Invitations are sent. Refreshments are served between mass and execution. Candide is flogged and Pangloss is hanged for no fault of theirs. Another earthquake takes place on the same day.
Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor are killed. The Grand Inquisitor is given a grand funeral. Don Issachar’s body is thrown into the sewer because he is a Jew. This shows the fanatic attitude prevailing in society.
The Moslem soldiers cause bloodshed, murder and rape. Yet they do not miss even one of the five daily prayers prescribed by Mohammed. They practice religion ritually rather than imbibe the spirit of it. The Jesuit fathers take away everything from the natives and give them nothing in return. Religion advocates love for fellowmen but they do not care for their fellowmen. Voltaire describes the luxury in which they live, when the Baron’s son, who has become a Reverend Commandant, invites Candide. They eat from golden dishes while the Paraguayans outside eat humble meals from wooden plates. Thus Voltaire has satirically exposed the selfishness of the so-called religious people. A monk is one of Paquette’s seducers, though his religion advocates celibacy for a monk.
Voltaire condemns excessive national pride, which is an excuse to murder the innocent and steal their land. Candide experiences hypocrisy and snobbery everywhere except in the land of Eldorado. The Baron’s castle in Westphalia is considered the best because it has doors windows and tapestry. Candide’s father is rejected because he has ‘mere’ seventy-one quartering. The Baron’s son vehemently opposes Candide’s marriage to his sister, Cunégonde because Candide also has only seventy-one quartering. Voltaire hated such aristocratic snobbery. He himself had been a victim to it.
After so many people are killed in the Bulgar’s war against Abars, both sides
sing the ‘Te Deum.’ It is ridiculous that both sides should consider themselves
victorious. It is not possible for both the opposite parties to win the
war. When the English executes Admiral Byng, Voltaire ridicules the foolishness
of a colonial war. The two nations have been fighting for snow-covered
land on the borders of Canada, which is hardly worth anything.
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