Candide or Optimism is a French novel first published by philosopher Voltaire in 1759. Candide is a satire that was widely translated and it got very well-known among the readers. But this novel also enjoyed a big scandal. After its publication, Candide was banned in account of it political sedition, religious blasphemy and intellectual antagonism which was disguised under a veil of innocence. Nevertheless, Candide is considered one of the most influential books ever written. Voltaire’s sarcastic tone parodies many romance clichés and adventures. In this short novel almost everything is ridiculed: armies, governments, theologians, religion, philosophies, human stupidity and Leibnizian optimism. Fast-moving and erratic plot is the main tone of the novel, while psychological characterization not so much. Voltaire’s intention wasn’t to show characters as actual people of flesh and blood and feelings because we wouldn’t notice the humor and playfulness in his story. Voltaire satirises many theories, mostly the Leibnizian optimism which primary mantra is ”all is for the best”. Candide is challenged with abominable events described in thorough detail so frequently that it becomes whimsical and humorous. The main approach is to ironically contrast tragedy and comedy. All characters in this novel are not realistic, they are two-dimensional and simplistic. The end of the novel is uncertain and enigmatic and it has many different conclusions. But however, this novel is a so called bildungsroman – novel of education or coming of age story where our main protagonist rejects his mentor’s optimism. On the other hand it is not resolved what kind of philosophy Candide did accept.
The story begins with an open – minded young man named Candide who is a little bit naive. His name Candidus on Latin means pure, naive. He was brought up in the castle of a powerful Baron in Germany. Besides him, in this household lived Baron’s children, his wife and the castle’s mentor Pangloss. Candide was influenced with Leibnizian optimism by Pangloss who lived in unity with this doctrine. He considered that all is for the best. But Candide fell in love with Cunegonde, Baron’s daughter. As a result he was cast out from the Baron’s castle. Now, he must make is on way in the world.
He discovered that evil, suffering and human stupidity exist in every corner of the world. Candide was tricked by Bulgar recruiters and joined into their the military service. In war, he witnessed all the terryfing and terrible things. He escaped to Netherlands. There he met a beggar who, it turns out, was his mentor Pangloss who told Candide that Bulgarians demolished the castle, they also killed Cunegond. Despite all the horrible things that happened, Pangloss still had a strong belief that all is for the best.