Voltaire who was a French writer, philosopher and one of the leaders of the Enlightenment is known as one of the greatest satirist ever. Voltaire wrote about important genres: tragedy, history, philosophy and fiction just as his English contemporary Samuel Johnson.
American heritage dictionary defines satire as, “An artistic work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. Irony or caustic wit used to expose or attack human folly.” The satirist adopts a critical attitude and usually presents his material with wit and humor. Voltaire uses many literary writing tools to share his views.
Voltaire reasons for using satire is because he believes it is entertaining which many at time also agreed with him. During this time, many great authors wrote about things that they believed to be interesting for others to read. Voltaire was a big believer in writing about things that really happen to others.
Some of the tools he uses are irony, symbolism and satire. The point I will be talking about is satire. Voltaire choices satire because this way he can make a joke out of serious matters such as death, rape, and murder. Through his satire, Voltaire sometimes expressed outrage, and other times he was playful. This is the literary term he uses the most of the time. Voltaire targets of satire are many and varied. Three topics Voltaire uses satire for are philosophical optimism, religion and greed.
I will be focusing my paper on these three ideas. Voltaire was a serious man but felt it was important to entertain others by using humor as long as he thought it was funny. Voltaire’s main purpose in writing Candide was to demolish the theory of Optimism, and that is why is used exaggeration. To oppose optimism Voltaire used a variety of forms. The one that proved to be most effective was satire.
“Gottfried and Leibnitz, the German philosopher, provides Voltaire’s most specific target in Candide, with the complexities of his version of optimism reduced for satiric purposes to be facile formula.” (World Masterpieces 316) Leibnitz thought that everything had a cause and an effect. He believed that for everything that happened there was something else that would follow due to the previous. Through Voltaire’s experiences, he came to realize that not everything was for the best. In the story, irrational ideas are taught to the main character, Candide about optimistic versus the reality of the rest of the world. Out of every unfortunate situation in the story, his philosopher-teacher advised Candide that everything in the world happens for a reason. “Private misfortunes contribute to the general good, so the more private misfortunes there are, he more we find that all is well.” (Voltaire 31) Pangloss was a devoted friend and an optimist who claims that there is no effect without a cause, and that everything has a purpose.
Pangloss was not meant to be a direct attack on Leibnitz. Although Voltaire wanted people to realize how distorted Leibnitz idea was. During the story, an earthquake strikes killing many.
In reality, this is a horrific predicament to be involved in. In Pangloss’ world, “It is impossible for things not to be where they are, because everything is for the best.”(Voltaire 35) Pangloss believed that the earthquake was necessary in the course of nature, so there was definitely a reason why it happened. Pangloss tries to defend his theories by determining the positive from the negative situation.
As Candide grew up and encountered many unfortunate things Pangloss would turn the situation around, bring out the good in it. Candide learns that optimism is “The passion for maintaining that all is that all is right when all goes wrong.” (Voltaire 86) Every time Candide experienced some terrible danger and or suffering, he wondered if Doctor Pangloss might begin to doubt his own philosophy. Pangloss ultimately changed Candide’s optimistic philosophy. Pangloss preached that wherever one was it was the best possible place to be. Candide had questioned Pangloss on a number of occasions because he felt that there must be a better place to be when there is so much evil where he was. Throughout his life, Candide was affected