Philosophy and Optimism In Novel ‘Candide’

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

The story of Candide was nothing short of dark, minorly humorous, and also action filled. The theme that really seemed to resonate with me the most though was optimism. I know this is essentially the title of the novella, but the theme was so prominent that I wanted to dive deeper into it. Through Pangloss, Candide was able to learn about the philosophy that we supposedly live in the best of all possible worlds, however, the array of negative events throughout causes much speculation and disillusion. Pangloss is a character in the novel who I found to be far too optimistic based on his condition and prior experiences. To believe that we actually live in the best of all possible worlds is foolish, especially considering what all he has gone through like having syphilis. One quote that confused me and challenged by thinking was when Pangloss said “there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause.” As I was trying to understand what this meant, I came to the conclusion that this optimistic outlook throughout the novel was likely used to justify all the evil in the world. No matter what bad things seemed to be, somehow it was all for the greater good and God would not have things happen that weren’t justified or part of his plan. Another character that I found to be optimistic, yet more realistic, in the midst of misfortune was the Old Women who admitted to wanting to kill herself many times but never could because she was in love with life. She is truly someone who has been to hell and back, yet still finds a reason to live which is admirable.

One quote that really stood out to me in Candide was when Candide describes optimism as “the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.” This is just one of the points in the novella where Candide is realizing that this world just cannot possibly be the best with all of this darkness and tragedy surrounding him. Though this quote may not appear to be talking directly about theme of optimism, it is closely related as it challenges the optimistic philosophy discussed by Pangloss.

Overall, I enjoyed Candide much more than The Journey to the West. I feel like I was able to follow along much better with the journey and message of this novella then the first reading. One thing I did not enjoy about the reading were all the characters. For me, I struggle with keeping track of plot development, characters, and action filled stories, so this novella was certainly challenging. Nonetheless, I felt like Candide challenged me to think about things in a way that I had not yet thought about. For example, I use to be firm in the idea that God would not give us something in life that he knew we couldn’t handle. However, after going through life and being dealt my fair share of misfortunes that have really set me back emotionally and physically, it is sometimes hard to hold on to that belief that everything is happening as God intends it to happen. I think this idea directly relates back to Candide challenging that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, but that we can find happiness by doing things that are meaningful to us.

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