A Free Will Problem in Frankenstein And Candide Novels
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Candide by Voltaire, both the monster and Candide are tossed into the real world and forced to fend for themselves. Although these two stories seem as if they have nothing in common since Candide is a satire and Frankenstein is a more of a horror story, the most important similarity that the main characters share is that they both have a feeling of desire that strips them of their freedom. The monster wants to fit into society and Candide is searching for his lover, and these desires subsequently conflict with their freedom, because they are bound by their desires. Voltaire’s quotation, “What is the meaning of the phrase ‘to be free’? It means ‘to be able,’ or else it has no meaning. To say that the will ‘can’ is as ridiculous at bottom as to say that the will is yellow or blue, round or square. Will is wish, liberty is power”, touches upon the tension between freedom and free will, and is supported by both Candide and Frankenstein. Voltaire’s quotation applies to both books because even though it seems as if the monster is given freedom, he is denied of his wish to be a part of society, which causes him to become murderous, and Candide is stripped of his freedom because he longs to be with the love of his life, Cunegonde, and all of his choices are therefore restricted because of his love for her. Both books prove that there is no such thing as free will, because society dictates people’s choices and their fates.
When the monster is created and abandoned, he is set free into the world and eventually learns that he doesn’t want to live in isolation. However, no one allows him to assimilate into society, which seems to be his strongest desire. When the monster saves a little girl and gets shot for doing so, he says, “This was then the reward for my benevolence! I had saved a human being from destruction, and, as a recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound, which shattered the flesh and bone” (Shelley 125). Even though the monster proves that he has the capacity to be virtuous and does a good deed, it is clear that he will not be allowed to participate in society no matter how hard he tries. The monster continues on to say, “The feelings of kindness and gentleness which I had entertained but a few moments before gave place to hellish rage and gnashing of teeth. Inflamed by pain, I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind” (Shelley 125). Mankind’s propensity for violence forces the monster to become a hateful creature, even though all he ever wanted was to live in a community peacefully among other people. The monster’s choice and desire to be a part of society dictated all of his actions, and proved that he ultimately had no choice in his fate.
However, desires aren’t the only thing holding back the monster. From the beginning of the monster’s creation, he showed signs of intelligence, and did not seem to act like the horrible creature that everyone assumed that he was. When the little boy tells the monster, “Let me go, monster! Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me, and tear me to pieces – You are an ogre – Let me go, or I will tell my papa” (Shelley 126), it is revealed that people automatically assume the worst of the monster, based off of his outwards appearances. This is an unfair judgment of the monster, and it is this rationalization that ultimately forces the monster to become murderous and evil. Society kept trying to tell the monster who he was, and it eventually led to the monster fulfilling his horrible fate. The monster was never given a choice in his personality; he was forced into acting a certain way because that was what everyone assumed of him. Clearly, the monster did not have free will, and society eventually turned him into the horrible beast that they dreaded.
The land of Eldorado also explores the idea of a land in which there is no free will to a more extreme extent, but it is representative of the real world. When an old man tells Candide, “We all agree with each other here” (Voltaire 63), it is obvious that no one thinks for themselves, and that Eldorado is a land in which everyone lacks originality and is marked by sameness. Although it seems as if Candide has free will because he chooses to leave, his reasoning for leaving is because he thinks that he’s in love with Cunegonde. The king tells Candide, “It’s a foolish thing to do. I know my country doesn’t amount to much, but when a man is fairly well off somewhere, he ought to stay there” (Voltaire 66). It was very foolish of Candide to leave a land filled with riches, peace, and kindness, to return to a world filled with “monks who teach, argue, rule, plot, and burn people who don’t agree with them” (Voltaire 63). He fact that Candide left Eldorado, which is supposed to be a perfect place, because of his love for a woman suggests that Voltaire believes that women have a powerful hold over men that causes them to do stupid things. Although it seems as if Candide used his free will to leave Eldorado, he really did not have free will, because he was blinded by love.
Not only does it seem as if free will doesn’t exists, but Voltaire also suggests that mankind is happiest when he don’t have free will. At the ending of the book when Candide decides to live in a society in which each person fills a specific niche (the role that an organism plays within a society), Candide realizes that this lifestyle is what is truly desirable to him. When the Turk tells Candide that his work keeps him free of three great evils: boredom, vice, and poverty (Voltaire 112), Candide ponders this idea and says, “That good old man seems to have made himself a much better life than the six kings we had the honor of eating supper with” (Voltaire 112). This is the moment in which Candide realizes what makes him truly happy, and he gives up his free will to live a life of repetition and uniformity. At the end, instead of continuing to debate with Pangloss, Candide shuts him down by saying, “Well said, but we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 113). Clearly, Candide has lost his desire for free will, and would rather live a life of ignorance and happiness.
Both books seem to agree with Voltaire’s quotation, which argues that there is no such thing as free will. Frankenstein shows that society doesn’t always allow a person to have what he/she wants, and that society can ultimately shape a person’s characteristics and dictate their actions. Candide depicts that idea that a life without free will is a happy one, and that love can destroy a person’s free will. In the end, free will is something that everyone seems to think that they have, but as Voltaire claims, no one truly makes a decision out of free will.
A Story About Land of Eldorado By Voltaire
Voltaire’s Eldorado by the Standards of More’s Utopia
Everyone has heard the word “utopia.” It is often used in passing by idealistic characters as they reference a perfect but non-existent town or city, usually in contrast to the shoddy world that lends itself to the story’s setting. The story of Candide mimics this introduction to a utopian civilization as Voltaire, the story’s author, presents his readers with the legendary Eldorado, the one place that is good and fair among all other countries as well as the place in which, by a stroke of luck, Candide and his associate find themselves. In the book, Candide, a young and naïve boy who has been travelling the world to be reunited with his one love, Cunégonde, and enduring a multitude of tragedies along his journey, finds his way to the mythical land of Eldorado, with the help of Cacambo, a friend and valet to the main character. Despite the all of the wealth and good fortune contained within the walls of the hidden country, Candide and Cacambo choose to leave after about a month of having savored its glory. After having gone through so much misery prior to the landing at Eldorado, the reader is left speculating: why? Despite its general appearance of being a fair and perfect world, Eldorado is still open to corruption and merely illustrates the idealization of a culture prior to its overwhelming reliance on wealth and status, which is depicted throughout the rest of Candide’s journey.
Eldorado seems to have been introduced in Candide only to serve as a contrast to the awful war-torn societies present within the book. As mentioned above, the land is immeasurably wealthy and impossibly peaceful. The country is free from war and battle. And, what perhaps may be its most surprising quality, is how generous its people are. Much to their good fortune, Candide and Cacambo were greeted with open arms by the citizens of Eldorado and are provided extravagant meals, housing, and tours—all at no cost despite the mention of a local currency when the two tried to pay with the gold and jewels they picked up on their way to the main city. Eldorado, therefore, was representative of an ideal society, perhaps one that favored Voltaire’s own opinion, which valued intellect over material wealth and freedom over a strict monarchical regime. As mentioned previously, this seemingly perfect world may not be quite what it seems and actually falls quite short of being an actual utopia, at least by the standards set forth by Thomas More.
Sir Thomas More was a social philosopher and humanist from the early half of the Renaissance and is most noted for his literary work Utopia, which was written originally in Latin in 1516. The work is highly controversial, introducing the concept of a highly idealized political system, perhaps on the basis of later parallels to the communist ideas that were popular for a time in Germany and Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More is very thorough in that he describes even the smallest details of the society, such as what the people of Utopia wear and what their silverware and toys are made from. Like Eldorado, More’s Utopia is anti-war and anti-bloodshed, although the people will take up arms if their land is being attacked. There is also a level of gender equality in that the women of the utopia are allowed to fight if they so choose, perhaps an implied freedom of all humankind as is stated by the King in Voltaire’s Eldorado: “But I certainly have no right to stop strangers from leaving. That is a piece of tyranny which has no part in our customs or our laws. All men are free.” (47). And of course, both places portray the image of a perfect society in which everyone is content in their fortunes. Although these general observations are shared between the two places, to assume that Eldorado is a true utopia might be a bit presumptuous if one hasn’t gone to the trouble of dissecting some of the more specific points of the two societies. After all, Candide had once assumed that his home in Westphalia was the perfect haven, but that idea crumbled soon after the young boy’s exile.
As mentioned previously, one of the most outstanding aspects of More’s Utopia is that the gold and jewels that laden the country holds no more value than wood, good only for toys and silverware. This idea is paralleled in Eldorado as Candide and Cacambo run across a few children playing with gold and precious jewels as if they held a very simple value, quite unlike the richness and wealth with which the two main characters associated such things (Voltaire 41). Although it seems like this aspect of Eldorado would qualify it as a utopia, one must look beyond the surface. More’s Utopia exhibits a land in which material wealth should mean very little to the people. As far as material goods go, in Utopia, the people only desire what is needed and nothing more. In Eldorado, although the people certainly turn down gold and jewels, it does not stop them from indulging in material extravagances: “At once two waiters and two waitresses, dressed in cloth of gold and wearing ribbons in their hair, showed them to a table and offered them the table d’hôte.” (Voltaire 42). This type of dressing up suggests that there is at least some level of pride that is taken into consideration when making their appearances, which greatly opposes More’s vision of Utopia where the people wear little more than animal skins, all of similar fashion, for the sake of low labor, low cost, and overall efficiency. In terms of their pleasures, what is displayed in Eldorado is not at all consistent with Utopia: “But of what they call counterfeit pleasures they make naught; as of pride in apparel and gems, or in vain honours; or of dicing; or hunting, which they deem the most abject kind of butchery.” (More). Although one could argue that since gold and jewels meant so little to the people of Eldorado that they saw these fine clothes as very modest, the fact that the waitresses mentioned above decorated their hair with ribbons, something with no function value whatsoever, indicates that the people do care about their looks. In addition to the fine clothing, Eldorado exhibits an excessive lavishness in its architecture: “The main entrance was two hundred and twenty feet high and one hundred wide. There are no words to describe what it was made of, which in itself gives some idea of just how prodigiously superior it was to the sand and pebbles we call ‘gold’ and ‘precious stones’.” (Voltaire 46). In addition to their more meager uses, gold and jewels in the land of Eldorado are used the same as in any regular society for the creation of grandiose luxuries, which again does not fall in line with the depicted modesty and humble nature of the people in Utopia. So, overall, even though Eldorado’s citizens may not view gold and jewels as currency, it does not negate the fact that they still connect the precious metals to wealth and status.
Another major aspect of More’s Utopia is the country’s dedication to education and knowledge:
Although there be not many that are appointed only to learning, yet all in childhood be instructed therein; and the more part do bestow in learning their spare hours. In the course of the stars and movings of the heavenly sphere they be expert, but for the deceitful divination thereof they never dreamed of it.
As a philosopher, and assuming he was familiar with More’s work, Voltaire probably quite favored this part of Utopia. And readers can see that parallel in his Eldorado. When Candide and Cacambo are being toured around the main city, they pass by another grand building called the Palace of Science, which, as the name would suggest, is dedicated to the learning of mathematics and physics (Voltaire 46). However, whereas More asserts that education in Utopia is taught to all citizens and that all citizens enjoy the practice of seeking knowledge, especially through discussion, Voltaire shows us in Eldorado that there are only a few who actually actively pursue knowledge, the only example being the old man. After Candide and Cacambo inquire about Eldorado and its customs, a local landlord tells them, “I know very little about things, and that suits me well enough. But we have an old man living in the village who used to be at court and who is the most knowledgeable man in the kingdom, as well as the most communicative.” (Voltaire 43). Of course, no one is expecting that all the citizens be equally knowledgeable. However, the fact that the landlord admits to knowing very little undermines More’s utopian ideal of all citizens being educated and finding pleasure in education, for if the landlord matched that perception, he would have been a bit more helpful to Candide and Cacambo. But of course, it is implied that as a landlord, one does not need an outstanding education. This idea, however, that one’s career or status determines how much education is or is not necessary to the individual subtly marks the beginning of a class-based society, which is certainly not what More intended a utopia to be.
Additionally, the previous passage in Candide already implies an established hierarchy. After Candide and Cacambo try to pay for their meal, their host explains to them how the inns in Eldorado are set up. But more importantly, the host says, “The meal wasn’t very good here because this is a poor village, but anywhere else, you’ll get the kind of reception you deserve.” (Voltaire 43). The fact that this host distinguishes his own village from all of the others, especially in terms of wealth, indicates that there is in fact a consciousness about rank. This consciousness can do one of two things for the people of Eldorado: help the people so that they can become a more equal society or pave the way toward competition and even greater disparities. History reveals that it is the latter that tends to occur.
An additional similarity between Utopia and Eldorado is the acceptance and tolerance of all monotheistic religions. Voltaire describes to us through the old man character that praise is given to one God all day long by all citizens of Eldorado, as they are all blessed with far more than what they need to live comfortably. However, unlike More’s Utopia where there are a few appointed priests who exhibit higher levels of holiness than the average person, there are no priests in Eldorado: “’My friends,’ he said, ‘we are all priests. The King and the head of each family sing hymns of thanksgiving solemnly every morning, to the accompaniment of five or six thousand musicians.’” (Voltaire 45). In this one case, Eldorado portrays a slightly more egalitarian society than what is described in Utopia, suggesting that in Voltaire’s ideal world, all men are recognized equally under the eyes of God at least in terms of the religion. This also suggests that the virtues of all of the people in Eldorado are either perfectly good or at least equal to each other, whereas in More’s Utopia, the levels of virtue vary, as implied by there being men who are holier than others. Although this small detail in Voltaire’s Eldorado doesn’t match up to More’s Utopia, it certainly reflects Utopia’s more general qualities of humility and equality as, again, all of the people are seen as equal in this aspect of life.
The final parallel between Utopia and Eldorado is the two countries’ isolated locations. Thomas More states:
The island of Utopia is shaped like a new moon, in breadth at the middle 200 miles, narrowing to the tips, which fetch about a compass of 500 miles, and are sundered by eleven miles, having in the space between them a high rock; so that that whole coast is a great haven, but the way into it is securely guarded by hidden rocks.
Likewise, the old man in Candide explains to the young travelers, “[The princes] ordained, with the consent of the nation, that no inhabitant was ever to leave our little kingdom. And that’s how we’ve managed to remain innocent and happy.” (Voltaire 44). Both places were made so that their ideal societies could thrive without the threat of arbitrary human constructs as well as dark human desires.
At the beginning of this essay, it was mentioned that Eldorado was open to corruption, and this reliance on isolation proves that. Should any particularly violent and greedy persons, like the Spanish conquistadors, enter either More’s Utopia or Voltaire’s Eldorado, they would kill the citizens in order to possess all of the land’s wealth and then, just as people have done during colonial times, drain the land of its resources in order to benefit the economy of the countries from which they were sent. Whatever people remained would be used for forced labor, and the invaders would set up a hierarchical system with themselves at the top and the natives on the bottom (Strayer 632 – 33). And even the cultures of these “perfect” societies were not destroyed, they would live on merely as a shadow of what they formerly were, having to bow down to a highly unjust hierarchical system and to the global need for wealth, status, and power. Having been exposed now to greed, massive bloodshed, inequality, poverty, and so on, the people from these utopias would have to adapt because there is little chance that a peaceful society can exist openly with one that relies on power and violence.
In the end, it seems that while Utopia and Eldorado bear many resemblances, the two lands still hold a few slightly varying values. Utopia is largely defined by its efforts in humility, modesty, and equality. On the other hand, Eldorado is marked by its hospitality and religious equality. Even though both civilizations would suffer with the violent integration of more realistic societies, Eldorado reflects slightly less utopian ideals as the people have already begun to show small acts of pride and a ranking system based on wealth and class. However, both places still exhibit conditions which are far more favorable than the ones present when Utopia and Candide were written. And in spite of everything, Candide and Cacambo still decide to leave Eldorado. Candide reasons that:
If we stay on here, we’ll simply be the same as everyone else, whereas if we return to Europe with even a mere dozen sheep loaded up with Eldorado pebbles, then we’ll be richer than all the kings put together, we’ll have no more inquisitors to worry about, and we’ll easily be able to get Miss Cunégone back.” (Voltaire 47).
One could easily deduce that it was simply out of pride that the two chose to return to the normal world. The money from Eldorado would give the two travelers power and authority over the people who might try to threaten them. Wealth, however, isn’t just about getting ahead in society or making one’s way into a higher class. For those who are poor and suffering, wealth is a means of improving their circumstances. And yes, while living in Eldorado, Candide’s and Cacambo’s circumstances were quite fair. But staying there wasn’t going to get them anywhere else. They were perfectly content. But humans have an innate desire to seek improvement. In a world that is relatively perfect, there is no way to improve, and so for Candide and Cacambo, it was better to leave, not necessarily so they could be wealthy, but to prove to themselves that they were capable of doing better and to do so with the people they cared about most. Of course, as a satire, the ending of Voltaire’s Candide was amusingly mediocre.
The Experiences Of Men And Women In Voltaire’s Candide
Candide, a novel written by French Philosopher Voltaire, takes place in Europe throughout the 1800’s. Women in the 1750’s did not have many privileges and were taken advantage by the men. Voltaire portrays this through the very limited female characters of Cunegonde, Paquette and the Old Woman. These women all coming from different origins, still suffer from the same hate, cruelty, and sexual abuse that women went through in the 18th century. As the book follows Candide through his journey to find love, he realizes the hardships that the women face.
In the beginning off the story Voltaire introduces the audience to Cunegonde daughter of a German baron and her mother’s chambermaid, Paquette. This is just the beginning where we can see how Voltaire expresses the differences between the men and the women. When describing the two female characters he uses only physical features to do so. The two women do not get described as being brave, hardworking, resilient females instead he used “plump, appetizing and extremely beautiful” to describe Cunegonde, and pretty brunette as Paquette. By Voltaire using only these ways to characterize the very few females throughout the novel, he is showing how unimportant they were in that time. They were seen to men only as beautiful, helpless little prizes that they could claim. We especially see this as the novel goes on. After Candide is kicked out of the Barons castle for having a sexual encounter with Cunegonde, he later comes in contact with a woman who is referred to only as “the old woman”. The daughter of Pope Urban and Princess of Palestrina, who was brought up in great wealth. She begins to tell Candide her story, at the age of 14 she set sail to mourn over the death of her fiancé, and her ship got attacked. The men raped all the women and sailed to Morocco to sell them as salves. She saw her mother and other women getting fought over by all of the men. She then was awoken to a man attempting to rape her. As her story continues, she was sold for slavery many times and lastly ended up in the hands of a Muslim military commander, who planned to kill her and other women for food. This is just one of the females in the book who suffered physical and sexual abuse. When Candide finally reached Cunegonde, he finds out that the soldiers attacked the attacked and killed her whole family. Cunegonde was found being raped by a soldier and was then captured by a Bulgar Captain. There she spent her time as his mistress’s and was then sold off to two men who then shared throughout the week. Throughout the whole novel we see that the women are looked at as nothing more than a prize for the men to play around with. Regardless of the wealth or background of the women’s families, they were all treated disrespectfully by men.
Throughout this novel it is noticeable that mainly all of the characters that are introduced are men, specifically military men or men of great wealth. These men in this novel live a more gracious but jealous and selfish lifestyle. Throughout the book there is lots of violence and killing men of other men, mainly for women. All the men want is to have not one but many women throughout their lives. We first see this in the beginning of the novel when Pangloss, is having an affair with the main Paquette. Later it is found out that the Old Woman had a fiancé who was then killed by his mistress. The novel is a sequence of events that all relate back to women. The men get along by bonding over the slavery and sexual abuse of these women. They sell them from one to another and strip the women of what they have. However, the men who do not come from wealth or authority experience life a bit different.
The lifestyle that the men who were characterized as having power or wealth in this novel differed from the men who did not have this. Candide is a prime example of this, when being kicked out of the baron castle he is found half dead by two men. These men then convince him to join the army where he experiences much abuse. The men give him an ultimatum of either being executed or run through two line of men who will be attacking him with weapons. He was left nearly butchered after that experience. Since Candide was a man who did not want to engage in war, and had nothing else left, he was taken advantage of and physically abused.
Throughout this Novel we see the different experiences that the men and women in the 18th century Europe went through. The women were treated as nothing more than a toy for the men to play around with and then sell to another man. They underwent, physical, mental and sexual abuse throughout their lives. They also experienced slavery where they were taken advantage of being mistresses for many men. Women in 18th century Europe were considered to be of no importance to the community. The men of wealth and power experienced a life not too short of what would be considered luxury in that time. For the men like Candide, who did not enjoy the acts of killing and abusing women and other men, he was stuck being the one abused. Although he did not go through the brutal acts that the women did, he still did suffer from abuse.
The Normalization of Rape and Oppression of Women in Candide, a Book by Voltaire
Unintentional progressive Feminist ideas
Would the attention brought to the horrors of rape and the oppression of women by Voltaire be considered a progressive form of literature, or a form of shock value? In Candide, Voltaire brings light to the ugly nature of rape culture and the unfortunate normalization of sexual assault as witness by several characters. Not only does Voltaire write about horrendous scenes of rape as experienced by Cunegonde, The old woman, and the Baron’s son/ Cunegonde’s brother, but also enslavement, pedofilia, and the overall unacceptable day to day treatment of the women as in Candide and also deeply embedded into modern society that is paired with such normalization.
The normalization of rape is justified as the price to pay for being desired and is the evidence is the attitude through speech by the women directly affected. Through no fault other than being young and beautiful, Cunegonde is raped and stabbed by an enemy soldier. Cunegonde shares her terrible experience with Candide but “puts to rest” any worries of multiple attacks by her current oppressors by stating “For though a person of honor may be raped once, her virtue is only strengthened by the experiences.”(14). In other translations “a person of honor” is in stead “a modest woman” leading to the belief that in some cases rape is to be expected while also treating previous sexual attacks as experience that carries with it strength. Cunegonde is making a drastic understatement that lessens the severity of a life changing event. The nonchalant perspective of the old woman after sharing her similar experiences of rape and enslavement further normalizes the frequent ravishing of women in the 1700s through her nonchalant tone and use of understatement. “As for myself, I was ravishing, I was loveliness and grace supreme, and I was a virgin. I did not remain so for long;the flower which had been kept for the handsome prince of Messa-Carrara was plucked by the corsair captain;he was an abominable negro, who thought he was doing me a favor. […] But on with my story; these are such common matters that they are not worth describing.”(20). Although the old woman briefly describes a horrible life changing event that happened to her, she treats the detail as insignificant to her overall story because it is so common and almost boring to talk about. Undoubtedly, the rape in this story is unacceptably normalized while these two female characters are forced to be defined by their assaults when it comes to their depth of person in the story, however Voltaire gives these women the bravery and strength to reject theses horrors as what defines them although his approach was through understatements and and the use of rape as a shock factor.
While it seems that rape is the price to pay for being desired and lusted after, the true nature of the culture behind rape is mostly a lust for power and dominance. The old woman, continuing to share her story revisits the reunion of a past caretaker, “. I opened my eyes, and saw a pretty fair–faced man, who sighed and muttered these words between his teeth, ‘O che sciagura d’essere senza coglioni!”’(33). The man was a eunuch who had cared for the woman when she was a child, however the concerning phrase ‘O che sciagura d’essere senza coglioni!’meaning ‘oh what a shame to have no testicles’ serves as evidence that the true nature of rape is not sexual desire, but a lust for domination over someone who is vulnerable. This being because a eunuch who has no testicles would therefore have no sexual urges, however still expressing a desire to violate a vulnerable person must be a lust for power. This then brings one’s attention to the sodomy of the baron/cunegonde’s brother, “her body was ripped open by the Bulgarian soldiers, after they had subjected her to as much cruelty as a damsel could survive; […] my poor pupil was served just in the same manner as his sister;” (14).While he is a young boy and not an attractive young woman such as his sister, he is still sodomized by numerous soldiers. While there is a possibiltiy of pedofiles among the soldiers, I beleive that the sexual abuse of the baron is also an example of an exertion of sexual domination as opposed to a sexual lust.
Fate that is once again shared among the female characters in the story is enslavement. In the case of the old woman, she is handled like property as she was sold by the eunuch who had once cared for her as a child, “‘I am going to take ship at Ceuta, and I’ll take you along with me to Italy. Ma che sciagura d’essere senza coglioni!’ “I thanked him with tears of joy, but, notwithstanding, instead of taking me with him to Italy, he carried me to Algiers, and sold me to the Dey of that province”(29). One would assume the presence of an emotional connection between a person and someone who once cared for that person, but the perception of women is identical to that of property and is easily sold off. Cunegonde becomes enslaved by the captain who had rescued her as a prisoner of war after her assault and the murders of her family, but similar to a play thing, “ In three months, having gambled away all his money, and having grown tired of me, he sold me to a Jew, named Don Issachar,”(18). Another example of women being treated as an object to be sold, traded, or in cunegonde’s case, shared. ““The Grand Inquisitor saw me one day at Mass, ogled me all the time of service, and when it was over, sent to let me know he wanted to speak with me about some private business. […] He caused a proposal to be made to Don Issachar, that he should resign me to His Lordship. Don Issachar, being the court banker and a man of credit, was not easy to be prevailed upon. His Lordship threatened him with an auto–da–fe; in short, my Jew was frightened into a compromise, and it was agreed between them, that the house and myself should belong to both in common; that the Jew should have Monday, Wednesday, and the Sabbath to himself; and the Inquisitor the other four days of the week”(19). Despite cunegonde’s free spirit and refusal of the advances of the jew and the inquisitor, similar to the past of the old woman, is treated as nothing more than property to be fought over, which for the time is a normal occurrence.
Although Candide is the hero who rescues Cunegonde and claimed to have nothing but good intentions along with the desire to marry her, he also holds a perception of women that is that of an object. ““Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world are of no signification. I have delivered your sister from a Jew and an Inquisitor; she is under many obligations to me, and she is resolved to give me her hand.”(39). Paired with the attitude of ownership of his sister by the baron, Candide is at this moment just as selfish as every other man who has fancied Cunegonde by exclaiming that decent human treatment warrants repayment in the form of marriage.Unfortunately this is how society has brought up Candide, and this is tragically accepted as the norm not only by the men who hold these beliefs, but by the women who must suffer this treatment.
One could take comfort in the fact that the events taking place in Candide are worries of the past as the book was written in 1759, however the normalization and shaming of victims of sexual assault is still currently alive and thriving. In the summer of 2016 a Stanford student was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an intoxicated women, a crime so horrid that the men who had stopped him, “ became very upset, to the point where he began crying while recounting the incident.”(Kingkade)
Though the crime is clear, the reality that the world similar to that of 1759 Candide does not differ much from the current time. The normalization is seem in a statement by the rapist’s father in response to his sentence, “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”(Miller). To rip bandages off of the fresh wounds of the victim, Turner received only 3 months in prison and is at this day in time a free man. Another case in which someone of power (wealth in this case) took advantage of someone who was vulnerable and unable to protect herself.
While Voltaire may have unitentionally written strong female characters no matter how tragic their back story is for the sake of satirical and shock value, the attention brought to these horrendous crimes have not stopped such acts against vulnerable individuals. However the awareness brought to the normalization of rape culture provide steps in the direction to completely alienate any and all forms of sexual assault to all people.
Optimism: a Balance Between Two Conflicting Worlds of Candied
In Voltaire’s Candide, the title character voyages from continent to continent in search of love and the meaning of life. On his journeys, his optimism–learned from his ever-present tutor, Pangloss–is slowly whittled away. Candide experiences corruption and deceit, particularly in the church. Most importantly, Candide realizes that one should cultivate one’s own life and not leave anything to chance. Through these lessons, Candide develops from an innocent student into a wise young man.
Born in Westphalia, Candide is the illegitimate son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. He is therefore provided an education by the premiere philosopher in Westphalia: Pangloss. Pangloss’ main philosophy is optimism. Whenever Pangloss is presented with a bad experience from another character, he simply says that it is for the best. At one point, for example, he says, “[Syphilis] is indispensable in this best of all possible worlds…for if Columbus, when visiting the West Indies, had not caught this disease…we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal” (30). With similar optimism, Candide proceeds on his journey. However, as he develops as a character, he realizes that this is not how the world operates.
Although optimism suffices as an explanation of the world to a young, naÃ¯ve Candide, it becomes less and less cogent as the story progresses. Candide is born into an ideal world where he is respected, educated, and provided for. Yet, when he departs, he is subject to a devastating natural disaster, a public humiliation, and the loss of the love of his life–among other difficulties. In chapter 26, for example, Candide dines with six dethroned kings. As Candide hears the sad accounts of the former rulers, he is forced to challenge whether, indeed, all things turn out for the best.
The final blow to Candide’s optimism occurs at the end of the novel, when Pangloss and Candide visit the Dervish, allegedly the wisest man in all of Turkey. Pangloss tells the Dervish that “I had been looking forward to a little discussion with you about cause and effect, the best of all possible worlds, the origin of evil, the nature of the soul, and pre-established harmony” (142). To this, the Dervish slams the door in their faces. That the wisest of men disregards Pangloss’ philosophy forces Candide to depart entirely from optimism. this action symbolizes Candide’s departure from optimism.
The second lesson that Candide learns is that organized religion is vain and corrupt. Voltaire represents church figures as selfish, and organized religion as a sham. For example, Voltaire describes the origin of Pangloss’s sexually transmitted disease: “Paquette was given this present by a learned Franciscan…” (30). Candide learns that Pangloss received the disease from a monk, who is supposed to be celibate. Thus, Candide is exposed to the deceit of the church.
In addition to the non-celibate monk, Candide encounters many other figures that disparage the church and organized religion in general. One such character is the Grand Inquisitor. He is introduced when he condemns Candide and Pangloss to an auto-da-fÃ©, in which Candide is tortured and Pangloss supposedly hanged. Later, Candide comes to know him as the forced lover of CunÃ©gonde, who blackmails her Jewish owner into sharing her. When the Inquisitor enters and sees the Jew dead, Candide quickly impales him. As the Grand Inquisitor, a very high level church official, the character is involved in blackmail, sexual promiscuity, and heartlessness. Another example of church corruption is the duplicitous AbbÃ© of PÃ©rigord. The AbbÃ© pretends to be friendly with the affluent Candide. He brings Candide into his social circle, introducing him to important people. Yet he is described as sniveling, snobby, and greedy. Thus, throughout his adventures, Candide encounters various negative representations of ecclesiastical figures. He learns that very few authority figures are entirely benevolent human beings.
The final lesson for Candide is that to achieve a happy, purposeful life, he must cultivate his own character. In his soul-searching, Candide encounters three major “checkpoints” which chronicle his emotional and philosophical development. The first is Eldorado, a city in which the streets are paved with precious gems and everyone is cordial. All aspects of this city symbolize optimism–and yet its very existence proves to Candide that optimism cannot be. If everything is for the best, then there would be no need for Eldorado to be hidden. However, as it remains hidden, Candide realizes that he can not rely on fate to make him happy. The second checkpoint is the home of Count Pococurante, a wealthy Venetian. The count has a magnificent collection of material goods, yet he is scornful of all of his belongings. He explains, “there is a pleasure in not being pleased” (124). Candide is disgusted by this approach, and affirms that it is not material wealth that makes one happy.
It is not until Candide’s experience with the third and final garden that he realizes the route to happiness and satisfaction. After speaking with the Dervish, the group comes across a Turkish farmer who invites them into his home. He then explains that he is happy being ignorant of scandals and negativity, and that he cultivates his garden with his family. On page 143, the farmer explains that the farm work “banishes those three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.” It is at this final garden that Candide realizes what the goal of his life should be: self-cultivation. Candide says to Pangloss, “We must go and work in the garden.” Finally, he opposes Pangloss’ theory that things are for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Candide officially abandons his original notion of optimism and completely denies fatalism, or the approach which leaves everything to fate. He learns that to lead a successful life, he must cultivate himself, and work to make himself the best he can be. This is the most important lesson that Candide learns.
Thus, in the course of Voltaire’s Candide, Candide learns three important lessons. First, he realizes that Pangloss’ doctrine of optimism is not concurrent with reality. Second, Candide encounters negatively portrayed church officials and formulates the idea that leaders, especially ecclesiastical ones, are vain and corrupt. Finally, Candide learns that he must “cultivate his life” as prescribed by the Turkish Dervish. To lead a successful life, Candide learns that he must take control of his own destiny, as things are not for the best in the best of all possible worlds. By the end of this journey, Candide has transformed from a malleable youth to an enlightened young man–and according to Voltaire, it is for the best.
The Ironical Tone Of Voltaire In Candide
Voltaire wrote Candide in 1759 during an “era… in which the conventions and inequities of European society were being questioned and attacked on all sides” (v). It is apparent from the text that his ultimate goal in writing the novel was to point out flaws in French society, such as the importance placed on money, unquestioning following of religion, and foolish philosophical speculation. The reader is bound to find Candide, the main character, and his adventures amusing and humorous, but the underlying messages of this seemingly light story are evident. One of the devices Voltaire uses is an ironic tone, which aids in exposing his feelings about the class system in France at the time, in which Candide represents the elite. Voltaire particularly achieves irony by making fun of his characters, placing them in ridiculous situations, and exposing them under the light of humor.
Candide maintains an overly optimistic view of the world throughout the story, even though he witnesses and experiences numerous disasters. His love for Cunegonde is challenged so many times it seems impossible that anything could ever come of it. He journeys the world, as he has been banished from his home for being seen kissing her, and struggles to survive. But Candide believes he lives in “the best of worlds” (7), an idea uttered so many times he and Pangloss appear idiotic, since they seem to live in the worst of worlds, plagued by tumultuous situations. Candide maintains a sunny outlook on the world because he relies on blind luck to save him. His perpetual good fortune is much like that of the aristocracy at the time, who Voltaire despised for their inherently unfair privileges.
Voltaire’s choice of diction also lambasts Candide and the blissful ignorance of the people he represents. Every incident is described as affecting Candide greatly, though nothing has any lasting effect on him. After being chased away from the castle in which he lived, Candide “walked a long while without knowing where, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven” (3). Candide suffers immensely, but Voltaire’s choice of words gives the impression of how a child would act after he is sent to his room. A child would think of his punishment as catastrophic, until he is distracted by something else, just as Candide is by the dinner he soon attends.
Candide’s unrealistic array of adventures begins to seem never-ending after awhile. He sees a bloody battle take place, hears that Cunegonde and her entire family have been killed, and witnesses the man who took him in, Jacques, drown in a horrific storm. The reader is then made to think things might settle down or become easier for Candide. But he continues his journey, finding Lisbon destroyed by an earthquake when he arrives. Pangloss has been hanged for being a heretic, and Candide is beaten for believing Pangloss’s philosophies after being hit with the news of his death. There is bittersweet news for Candide when he finds Cunegonde is not dead, but, rather, that she has been raped and made a sex slave. The two plan to get married; however, Candide’s bad luck is far from over. He loses Cunegonde to a wealthier man who proposes to her. He resumes his tumultuous adventuring, which includes almost getting eaten by a Biglug tribe, and has the fortune he finds in El Dorado stolen from him. Candide is not a noble man nor an intelligent one, so the fact that he has lived through all of this, let alone remained optimistic, is outrageous; such experiences would send others into anger or despair. Even more ironic is the fact that everything turns out perfectly for Candide in the end; Cunegonde leaves her husband and marries him. Ironically, he “had no wish to marry Cunegonde” (84), the love of his life. But he does so because Cunegonde begs her brother, the Baron of the castle Candide resided in, to allow them to wed. Candide finds out Pangloss was not actually killed and bands with him once again. He takes up gardening and lives a very good life, reunited with several characters in a sudden and seemingly impossible fashion.
To add to the irony of Candide, the characters are placed in humorous situations and use language that intensifies the comedic effect. Candide’s optimism is an exaggerated trait that parallels the attitude of many people. Voltaire’s point is, perhaps, that such an outlook is not the best policy. Maybe people should not go though life passively accepting what happens to them, hoping things will improve, but instead by being proactive. Candide’s good luck is unrealistic and cannot be attributed to his manner of seeing the world. He loses his fortune as quickly as he comes across it, reflecting Voltaire’s opinion that money should be earned; people who are born with it or randomly stumble upon it deserve to lose it quickly. He also is not fond of unnecessary formalities, revealed when he describes Pangloss as “professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology” (1). Pangloss wants his title to be admired, but Voltaire incites the reader to find it laughably excessive.
Thus, through its potent use of irony, Candide is a classic example of satire. The situations and attitudes in the story humorously parallel those existing in real life at the time. Voltaire uses irony in his descriptions to point out that the conditions in the story and, consequently, reality are ridiculous. It is hardly surprising that today, therefore, Candide is a prominent novel of historical importance.
Candide: Being Human
“Men,” said he “must, in some things, have deviated from their original innocence; for they were not born wolves, and yet they worry one another like those beasts of prey. God never gave them twenty– four pounders nor bayonets, and yet they have made cannon and bayonets to destroy one another” (10). Thus begins the philosophy in Candide by Voltaire- a subversive text published in 1759 for which the author was imprisoned at Basille. While there is some hope for the human race in Candide, the superficiality of love and the cruelty of human nature are revealed through depictions of material beauty, wealth, and violence to the effect of devaluing philosophical optimism.
Candide is ultimately pessimistic in its depiction of human nature, but the text’s defense of free will, as well as the fact that it is a satire, offer a more optimistic outlook. The idea that Voltaire’s criticism might inspire action in its readers implies the belief that humans can make the right choices; the satire is encouraging people to change the world themselves instead of blaming war and violence on predestination and religion. There is also a favorable view of humans in the resilience of the characters throughout the text, including the old woman, who confides she has thought of suicide hundred of times, but continues to “persist in carrying a burden of which we wish to be eased?” (30). The old woman nurses Candide back to health, as does the barber for Pangloss later in the text. These acts are evidence of humans caring for each other, in contrast to the pain that has been caused by humans to each other. Finally, Voltaire presents Eldorado, a land symbolizing material wealth. Ironically, its Utopian society is peaceful and cultured, uncorrupted and not greedy (50). The fact that the protagonist, Candide, abandons Eldorado to pursue the love of his life, Cunegonde, is significant because it shows that he is abandoning material wealth for love.
However, Candide’s motives in finding Cunegonde are not purely loving. Candide falls more in love with her material beauty than her personality, beginning a theme of objectification and negative attitudes towards female characters. Cunegonde is described mostly in terms of her body, “aged seventeen, …rosy-cheeked, fresh, plump, and tempting” (1). Later, when she is speaking to him, he “seemed to devour her with his eyes all the time” (17). He cheats on her with another, more beautiful woman. And inevitably, he resents her ugliness, her “bleary eyes, …withered neck, wrinkled face and arms”,(87), marrying her anyway because he feels morally obligated. Emphasizing material beauty to devalue Candide and Cunegonde relationship, which drives much of the plot, shows a negative outlook on human nature as well as the sincerity of love.
Material wealth is another motif used throughout the text to reveal the shallowness of human nature. Wealth changes the way people treat Candide; as a poor man he is enslaved and turned away in times of need, such as when he is turned away by the “charitable” protestant preacher. But as a wealthy man, “he soon found himself between two physicians, whom had not sent for, (and) a number of intimate friends who he had never seen” (63). Not only do many people make his acquaintance in order to get money, he is the victim of several robberies, including an elaborate staged scene in which someone pretends to be Cunegonde. Similarly, Candide is exploited by both Paquette and Friar Giroflee, neither of whom thank him for his generous gifts. As Martin points out, none of the people who Candide gives money to get any happier. As Candide’s experience illustrates, wealth and beauty, while temporary, are the primary contemplations of men.
Finally, violence is used in Candide to decry human nature and love by revealing the extent to which humans will go in order to secure their own needs. Sexual violence and rape are used to devalue the idea of love by taking an act associated with love and trust and using it instead as a weapon to enforce power. Candide is “ripped open by the Bulgarian soldiers” (8), in a scene that shows the senseless violence typical throughout the book. This violence is also used as an explicit physical manifestation of the misogynistic undercurrents and societal tensions that already exist. Cunegonde’s slavery to men, including the Bulgarian Captain, the Grande Inquisitor, and the Israelite further illustrates her lack of freedom and autonomy. The men are brutish and cruel, using other humans only to serve their needs and then discarding them.
Normal violence is also essential to the theme of human cruelty in Candide. Characters repeatedly sacrifice others, such as in the “auto-da-fe” (14) where heretics are murdered to save the people from natural disasters. Candide kills the Israelite, the Grand Inquisitor, and the Cunegonde’s brother in order to marry her. Likewise, the soldiers “devour the women” (29) in an act of cannibalism when they are starving. Candide finally kills the monkey lovers of two women, hoping to be forgiven for his sins. Voltaire illustrates the stupidity and cruelty of killing others in order to please God and the savagery of using others purely as tools. Perhaps it is the sailor in Candide, who “defying death in the pursuit of plunder, rushed into the midst of the ruin, where he found some money, with which he got drunk, and, after he had slept himself sober he purchased the favors of the first good–natured wench that came in his way, amidst the ruins of demolished houses and the groans of half–buried and expiring persons” (12) who best exemplifies Voltaire’s view of human nature. The caricatures in the text engage in senseless and meaningless violence because they believe in predestination; only by feeling remorse and thus responsibility for his actions, can Candide escape this cycle.
Material wealth and beauty, as well as violence, contribute to a negative view of human nature throughout the text, discarding philosophical optimism as a legitimate belief system by revealing the corruption and pain that humans bring upon themselves.
Comparative Analysis Of Voltaire’s Candide And Fielding’s Tom Jones
Voltaire’s work portrays a profound admiration for social and political English models. As a young man, he met an exiled Tory statesman in 1722, Viscount Bolingbroke who represented a form of cultural pre-eminence that thrilled him. This encounter and Voltaire’s desire to make a name for himself propelled him to his work that advanced English literature in France. By the 1750s, Voltaire’s youthful enthusiasm waned giving way to a more critical approach of English literature. His response to English fiction, such as the works of Henry Fielding, rejects English literature as an unworthy art form. However, Voltaire felt the attraction of English fiction that inspired his final works. La Place’s translation of Fielding’s novel, A History of Tom Jones, shows striking contrasts to Voltaire’s Candide. The narrative, words choices, imagery and turn of phrases in the translation mirror those of Voltaire’s Candice eliciting a parody like adaptation. Candide is Voltaire’s most remarkable masterpiece and has notable similarities and distinctions in the film adaptation of Tom Jones in terms of both characters and thematic concepts.
Candide’s first chapters make explicit reference to Tom Jones. The audience can decipher that the inspiration of the characters: Candide, Cunegonde, and Pangloss comes from La Place’s characters: Tom Jones, Sophia Western, and the philosopher Square. Voltaire aims to reverse what he feels as Fielding’s primary purpose by creating the openly sexual Cunegonde, which is ironic since it undermines Candide’s symbolic quest of love from her. Tom’s life is adventurous; his encounter with a troop of soldiers on their way to fight rebels in Scotland reflects Candide’s early life. Candice gets expelled from his hometown, recruits for and joins the Bulgar army, then travels to Holland afterward. Tom’s eagerness for the Hanoverian cause against the Scotch insurgents finds its partner in Candide’s drive to serve the Kings of Spain and Portugal in their war against Jesuits.
The film and the novel have a shared narrative formula. Candide mirrors Fielding’s story of a benevolent, but weak and naïve orphan raised by a nobleman. In both narrations, sexual awakening of the protagonists leads to their cruel eviction from their childhood homes. As young adults, the protagonists traverse the land in search of female lovers. Tom exposes himself to evil and suffering thus familiarizing himself with the brutality and hypocrisy of the world. Both Tom and Candide predictably reach a level of maturity and objectivity when reunited with their darlings. Tom marries the charming Sophia whose name signifies wisdom, while Candide consents to marry Cunegonde despite his initial doubts. At the end of the story, Cunegonde becomes hopelessly ugly to the disappointment of Candide. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the narrative of these stories is similar, albeit with slight deviations.
Both Fielding’s and Voltaire’s novels follow an Aristotelian tripartite narrative design. Tom Jones has 18 books divided into six units: for the country, road, and city. Similarly, Candide has 30 chapters that constitute three allegorical guides. Chapters 1-10 are about the optimistic Pangloss, Chapters 11-20 are about the skeptical Cacambo, and the novel ends with the pessimistic Martin in the final Chapters 21-30. Each of these illustrative guides portrays a specific philosophical outlook, and each links to a certain geographical region. Voltaire’s borrowings in the initial chapters are easy to recognize. Set in the area of Westphalia, the audience speculates whether Voltaire’s choice was an inspiration by Fielding’s “the western division of this kingdom.” Voltaire knew Fielding on a personal level to the extent of making acquaintances with his relatives. Fielding molded the character Sophia Western after his wife. Looking at Cunegonde’s role, it partly mirrors that of Sophia. While Candide has different settings and characters, one cannot help but notice the similarities in the plot settings given Voltaire’s close relationship to Fielding.
Both stories have a tale within a tale. Tom and Partridge sojourn to find a group of soldiers in their quest to go to Scotland. They embark on a cold, bleak journey on foot. Peter’s thoughts of his love, Sophia initially keep him warm while Partridge complains about the cold weather. Romantic yearnings and wishes continue to preoccupy Tom while they both climb a steep hill. To Partridge’s joy, he spots a far-off light from a cottage where they go to seek shelter. Here, they meet the Man of the Hill who gives them a place by the fire. His is a story of how he lost his principles at college and eventually cast aside by family because of addiction to gambling and alcohol. The woman he loves abandons him and finally endures the pain of betrayal from his best friend.
On the other hand, the Old Woman in Candide is a different story but shares a thematic structure to the Man of the Hill. The Old Woman is a narration of how the engagement of an attractive princess to a handsome prince falls apart. The princess finds herself a victim of rape, war and, finally old age. Both tales are about young, good-looking, and fortunate individuals who undergo extreme disappointment through suffering and rejection. Abandoned by their loved ones, the Old Woman and Man of the Hill contemplate on the unusual theme of suicide. Tom challenges the Man of the Hill objecting that he still trusts in Sophia’s love, who in turn reminds him of how he used to have faith in such illusions. The tale within a tale in both stories is vividly similar as a way to show that Voltaire learned from Fielding’s work.
The protagonists’ melancholy is evident in both Candide and Tom Jones. The often-cheerful Candide arrives in Venice only to find that his love, Cunegonde, is not there to receive him. Despite this disappointment, Candide refrains from making merry in a city famous for pleasure. Conversely, Tom dresses up for the masked ball, only to find out that he mistakenly presumed that Sophia wanted to meet him at the ball. Both protagonists are eager to reunite with their beloved to their dismay.
The theme of society and class recurs in both accounts. Voltaire depicts hereditary power as corrupting and ultimately meaningless. Leading families own slaves and servants. Power is temporary, and even though the Baron clings to his family status, he works in a chain gang. Voltaire vividly portrays this temporary nature when Candide encounters six dethroned kings in the span of one night. The main characters’ fortunes change as the story develops. Tom contends that some individuals are naturally superior to others, and authority comes with birth. He lives with different British classes: the poor Seagrim family residing on Squire Allworthy’s land, and the wealthy Lord Fellamar who has numerous servants. Fielding’s work reveals the good and bad sides of the characters, whether high up or lower on the social ladder.
Sex is rampant in Candide and Voltaire never mentions it positively while Tom Jones is as raunchy as one can get. Sexual exploitation is prevalent in Candide, where Voltaire crushes the sexual expectations of women. Candide is aware of countless incidents of sexual abuse in his country and is startled to learn of the multiple assaults that his love interest, Cunegonde, goes through affecting her beauty and innocence. Tom lies with Molly Seagrim getting her pregnant, and they have an unwelcome shotgun wedding. However, marriage does not limit Tom as his love of sex lands him into trouble especially when he discovers that he may have inadvertently committed incest with his long-lost mother. After this close brush with incest, Tom decides to abandon his old ways and marries Sophia to live happily ever after. The recurrence of this theme shows the authors’ motive to emphasize the manipulative nature of sex.
One cannot help but notice the stark contrasts while reading Voltaire’s Candide and watching the film Tom Jones. Voltaire’s work echoes that of Fielding in a chronological structure. While the characters and narrations are different, Candide contains signs of influence from Tom Jones. Tom Jones came out first, and one can decipher that Voltaire made use of a pre-existing text to adapt and create his novel. The thematic concepts of love, morality, society and class, family, philosophical viewpoints, suffering, and betrayal are evident in both stories. The authors build their characters and themes around romance resulting in great, educative pieces of writing.
The Ancien Regime In Voltaire’s Candide
François-Marie Aroused, more commonly known as Voltaire, was an 18th century philosopher, and writer known for his, satire and wit, and influence on the age of enlightenment. The Ancien Régime or old regime is a word to describe the social and political system of France from the around the 15th century to until the French revolution in 1789. Throughout the novel we learn about how the view of women, wealth and how it was valued above everything else, social classes, and religion in the 18th century, that characterize the Ancien Regime.
Women of the 18th century were often seen as objects to be bought, used, and sold. Although Voltaire does not spend much time developing female characters, Cunegonde’s story of being used, raped, and sold shines light on how women of the time were viewed. During the invasion of the castle Voltaire writes:
“A Bulgar Captain appeared, he saw me covered with blood and the soldier too intent to get up. Shocked by the monster’s failure to come to attention, the captain killed him on my body he then had my wound dressed, and took me off to his quarters, as a prisoner of war. I laundered a few shirts and did his cooking; he found me attractive, I confess it, and I won’t deny that he was a handsome fellow, with a smooth, white skin; apart from that however, little wit, little philosophical training, it was evident that he had not been brought up by Doctor Pangloss. After three months, he had lost all his money and grew sick of me; so, he sold me to a Jew named Don Issachar, who traded in Holland and Portugal, and who was mad after women. This Jew developed a mighty passion for my person, but he got nowhere with it; I held him off better than I had done with the Bulgar soldier; for though a person of honor may be raped once, her virtue is only strengthened by the experience.”
Cunegonde’s story exemplifies the vulnerability of women, and how they were often seen as objects, to bought and sold like food or clothing. The Bulgar Captain acts a prime example of how women were treaty. The Captain found Cunegonde attractive and cared for Cunegonde, but when he hit a financial hardship, he sold here without question having grown tired of her. Even after Candide of her story and how the Bulgar raped her and left a wound on her thigh, he interjects with how much he wishes to see it. Treating women as objects like seen in the novel wouldn’t change until hundreds of years after.
Voltaire comments on the perceived correlation between wealth and happiness El Dorado was a land of such riches that when Candide went to pay for a meal with two large gold pieces, that he was mocked for trying to give him pebbles. However, after staying for a month in their refuge, Candide realizes,
“If we stay here, we shall be just like everybody else, whereas if we go back to our own world, taking with us just a dozen sheep loaded with Eldorado pebbles, we shall be richer than all the kings put together, we shall have no more inquisitors, to fear and we shall easily be able to retake Miss Cunegonde.
This harangue pleased Cacambo; wandering is such a pleasure, it gives a man such prestige at home to be able to talk of what he has seen abroad, that the two happy men resolved to be so no longer, but to take their leave of his majesty.”
The king then berates the two for their foolish plan, but regardless assists them with it. Part of the king finds their plan foolish is that El Dorado’s happiness isn’t derived from their wealth, as it was throughout the Europe. Compare this to in Europe were even the wealthiest of people often longed for more riches. Weeks into their journey Voltaire makes an point about wealth and riches when Candide says, “My friend, you see how the riches of this world are fleeting; the only solid things are virtue and the joy of seeing Miss Cunegonde again.” Candide now having seen a land of infinite wealth learns that although physical wealth may weather, virtue and mental happiness are unwavering.
Social classes in the 18th century was strict seldom allowing movement up the classes. One of the many reasons for it was those in the higher classes looked down upon those lower than them with disdain
“That is all I desire, said Candide; I was Expecting to marry her, and I still hope to.
— Your insolent dog replied the baron, you would have the effrontery to marry my sister who has seventy-two quarterings! It’s a piece of presumption for you to even mention such a crazy project in my presence.
Candide, Terrified by this speech, answered:
— Most reverend father, all the quarterings in the world don’t affect this case; I have rescued your sister out of the arms of a Jew and inquisitor; she has many obligations to me, she wants to marry me. Master Pangloss always taught me that men are equal; and I shall certainly marry her.
— We’ll see about that you scoundrel said the Jesuit baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh; and so, saying he gave him a blow across the face with the flat of his sword”.
The baron’s son is more concerned with the social status of Candide than he is of his merits or character, regardless of the fact they share a genuine love for each other, and the Candide saved Cunegonde from a lifetime of servitude to a Jew and inquisitor.
Once Candide returns from his adventures and I reunited with Cunegonde, and when she reminds him of his promise to marry her, he goes forth although she lost her beauty. How
‘I will not suffer,’ said the Baron, ‘such meanness on her part, and such insolence on yours; I will never be reproached with this scandalous thing; my sister’s children would never be able to enter the church in Germany. No; my sister shall only marry a Baron of the empire.’
Candide feels that he must marry Cunegonde, regardless the fact that she has lost both her beauty and castle, he also feels that he must in spite of the baron. The social structure of the Ancien Régime in 18th century was incredibly strict. The aristocracy’s view of lower class being that of absolute inferiority. Voltaire perceived the aristocracy as corrupt and concerned only of their lineage.
Voltaire was adamant about the separation of the church and the state, finding that any institution with such power to rarely do good, using their power over people to extort an manipulate them. Religious conflicts were ever present in the 18th century whether they be caused by states or churches. In Eldorado is unique compared to Europe as it has one sole uncontested religion meaning that there no conflict between religions allowing there to be peace.
“Cacambo asked meekly what was the religion of Eldorado. The old man flushed again
— can there be two religions he asked I suppose out religion is the same as everyone’s we worship god from morning to evening
— then you worship a sing deity said Cacambo, who acted throughout as an interpreter of the questions of Candide.
— it’s obvious said the old man, that we there aren’t two or three or four of them. I must say the people of your world ask very remarkable questions.”
Eldorado’s situation is unique as all its citizens have come to an agreement on religion. This allows for unity between its citizens however in Europe such and idea is folly as religions are both widespread and diverse. Europe is cautiously divided due to the corruption of churches and states who can abuse their power without fear of consequence from their defenseless subjects. When these powers were combined is what Voltaire was truly against. He felt that secular rule was the only way.
Throughout the novel we learn about how the view of women, wealth and how it was valued above everything else, social classes, and religion in the 18th century, that characterize the Ancien Regime. Voltaire’s Candide is a defining work of the 18th century satirizing and mocking many of the ideals of the Ancien Regime. Candide acts as an enjoyable window into the past that allows us to see the critiques of an era long past.
Aphra Bhen's Oroonoko "The royal Slave" and "Candide, Or Optimism"
Aphra Bhen was a prolific female playwright and author during the restoration period of English history. Bhen herself stood by the power of the monarchy. Her book ‘_Oroonoko_’ has hints within the text that royalty is seen as set apart from the rest of society; and that rank is the natural order of things. Though little is really known about Behn’s early years, evidence suggests that she may have had a Catholic upbringing; (1) however, in considering the text for analysis, Bhen’s position on religion shows that she found religion very constrictive to society, which I will discuss in detail later.
François-Marie Arouet who is also known by his nom de plume Voltaire, was famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade and separation of church and state. He was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, and his Book ‘_Candide or Optimism’_ is a satirical philosophical tale which I will also discuss in detail later.
The first text to be analysed is found on page 11 of ‘_Oroonoko_’. The text depicts the “Indian” natives of Surinam, how they appear to the narrator, how they show love to each other and how they interact with the English governor.
The text begins with a vivid description of the natives. ‘they are extreme modest bashful, very shy and nice of being touched…’ […] ‘…and though they are all thus naked if one lives forever among them, there is not seen an indecent action or glance.’ This is a vivid description of innocence, and leads to the use of poetic language when discussing erotic love: eg :-‘he pursues her with eyes and sighs were all his language’ while she: ‘…looked down with all blushing modesty.’. This is also a clever use of the narrative structure known as vocalisation, and gives a powerful impression of how the natives feel for each other. However the tone she uses in the text is also hyperbolic, in as much as she romanticises the natives she describes. Also by doing this the natives are shown as passive.
The text also contains Biblical perspective and religious connotations. In the first quarter of the narrative she states ‘…so like our parents before the fall…’ which she also connects with: ‘…and these people represented to me an absolute idea of the first state of innocence, before man knew how to sin…’ By placing these comments in this conjunction, together with the innocence she creates, she thus connects both the native man and the woman to Adam and Eve within their setting:- the jungle of Surinam, which thus creates an impression of the Garden of Eden as described in the Bible, in Genesis 3. This is something that her audience, having known the Biblical text accurately, would have been able to understand and thus take into consideration, when thinking about a man and a woman from a country a long way away.
The narrator considers this noble; when she sees their culture free from the social parameters of religion and informs the reader thus: ‘Nature is the most harmless, inoffensive, and virtuous mistress, it is she alone, if she were permitted, that better instructs the world than the inventions of man; religion would here destroy that tranquillity that they possess by ignorance.’
But she also sates in the first quarter of the text . ‘It seems as if they had no wishes, and nothing to heighten their curiosity’; and later adds: ‘where there is no novelty there is no curiosity.’ when this is considered with the biblical connections, there is the possible implication of rank detachment thus separating the natives from the Christian-European culture which she and her readers are a part of.
At the end of the text, she separates the natives even further from the colonists, when she describes a meeting with the Governor.
When the Governor cannot make the trip to see them, the natives conclude that he must be dead. When this it is seen that this is not the case, the natives call the Governor ‘a liar and guilty of that infamy’. On one level, this could be seen as ‘native justice’ as she calls it. However, it also implies that the natives are limited in their understanding, and possibly suggesting that colonisation is acceptable, moreover necessary for their development.
The second texts is seen on Pages 40 to 42 of Voltaire’s ‘Candide or Optimism’ and are contained in chapter 16 of the main text. The scene depicts Candide and Cacambo entering the Jungle of Orillion, Their entrapment by the Orillians’; Cacambo’s discourse with the Orillians, who then release Candide and Cacambo from captivity, and ends with Candide’s exclamation as to how nice the Orillians are.
‘It’s a Jesuit it’s a Jesuit we will be avenged! And we’ll eat the Jesuit! ‘ say the Orillians after capturing Candide. Here Voltaire is seeing the native as very savage. But he is also viscously satirical and ironic, as Voltaire himself was taught by the Jesuit order. The omniscient narrator here gives us insight into what the natives are saying, and this adds to the viscous humour and the irony.
Candide then considers the philosophy of optimism which is the underpinning continuing theme within the text ‘All is for the best, no doubt, but I must say that it’s a cruel thing to have lost Mademoiselle Cunégonde and be roasted on a spit by the Orillions.’
Cacambo comes to the rescue by reasoning with the natives. Here Voltaire does not see a race that is inferior to the culture in Europe, but simply another form human being that can be reasoned with. As Cacambo states: that: ‘natural law teaches us to kill our neighbour all the world over’. […] ‘The Orillians might be cannibals’ but as he says ‘We Europeans have other means of eating well’ thus suggesting that there is little that separates modern society from the native, other than money.
The Orrillians are convinced by Cacambo’s reasoned speech and not only do they let them go, they give them women and are treated with “every civility” again underlining the ‘civility’ of the native population and thus informing the reader of the day that the natives are civilised in their behaviour, despite where they live and what they wear and try to do.
As the piece end’s, Candide is overcome both by his deliverance but also by the natives themselves “what men! What customs!” he says, going back to the theory of Optimism and the issues that relate to cause and effect: ‘ if I had not run my sword right through Cunégonde’s brother, I would have been eaten alive without fail.’ […] ‘It seems to me that nature is a good thing, since these people, instead of eating me, showed me a thousand civilities just as soon as they know I was not a Jesuit.’
In its tone style and genre ‘_Candide or Optimism’_ is a sharply satirical, philosophical tale that stands against the Leibnitz’s argument for philosophical optimism which is summed up in the words of Alexander pope: ‘whatever IS, IS RIGHT’. (2) In its tone style and genre ‘Oroonoko’ is a classical tradgedy where the hero is brought low by personal character flaws or outside circumstances.
In comparing and contrasting the texts, both consider colonisation and exploration: In considering the concept of exploration within ‘_Oroonoko_’ Bhen paints a vivid picture of the passivity and the beauty of the natural order, and how this justifies hierarchal society, Whereas, in ‘_Candide_’ Voltaire paints a very different picture, where humanity as a whole is struggling with its very nature, and only reason and enlightenment can help humanity progress.
In considering colonisation, Bhen supports the idea of colonisation as a means of financial gain for the homeland. Therefore the natives are shown as a species on their own but a secondary species, next to the European colonists which thus supports the idea of slavery, as a means to an end, despite the suffering that slavery incurs. This is seen in how she considers the natives in the text, who are considered, on the whole as naïve.
In ‘_Candide_’ Voltaire gives us a very complex picture of a world with complex cultures that simply do not interact well. Suggesting that colonisation is an imposition of one culture upon another for the sake of greed. This too is seen in the way he portrays the natives in the text, and though both consider religion to be a man-made construct that is difficult and dangerous to impose upon another culture. It is Bhen’s perspective of the natives that is demeaning, whereas Voltaire’s position is one of equality where we are all the same ‘the world over’.
‘_Oroonoko_’ by Aphra Bhen and ‘_Candide_’ by Voltaire, Both have varied and complex arguments relating to slavery and the plight of humanity. Both are very different and tell two very different stories of life in other lands. The fact that they are still in print now, is a reflection of their importance in understanding the attitudes and cultural aspects of the time that they were written. This in turn, still makes them as important as they were when they were first written.
1. Todd J Introduction xviii Oroonoko
2. Pope A _Essay of man p 45-6_ Fraiser R Voltaire “_candide, or optimism”_ P 182 renaissance and the long 18th Century (ed) Pacheo A, Johnson D, Open university press.
Bhen A. Oroonoko William canning (1688) (ed) Todd J. penguin classics(2004)
Voltaire Candide or Optimism (ed) T. Cuffe Penguin classics (2005)
The Renaissance and long eighteenth century (ed) Pacheo A, Johnson D, Open