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Analysis of “Candide Essay” – Sample Book Report

A fantastic and highly humorous tale by Voltaire, “Candide” is a satirical story about the optimism of the Age of Enlightenment and the philosophers who promoted this optimism. Not only are the satirical assaults aimed at the new period philosophers who promoted, in Voltaire’s opinion, ridiculous ideas but they are also intended for the Church. The author argues that the ideas put forward by these “enlightened” philosophers were not new or previously unknown. They did, however, stress parts of the human mind that are impossible to reach by plying people with hopes that were both false and empty. This Candide essay looks at some of the meaning in Voltaire’s work.

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When Voltaire refers to religious matters, all his attention is focused on the severe hypocrisy that tainted every aspect and every level of the Church. With the Inquisition still raging, the Inquisitors were free to kill anyone on the grounds of heresy if their philosophical outlook was different. In the story, the officers of the church are portrayed as sinful as they possibly could be. These sins included stealing jewelry, taking lovers and engaging in homosexual activity. The Church’s hypocrisy is exemplified by what is, possibly, the worst sin of all and at the highest level. This being that, despite vowing to remain celibate, the Pope has fathered a child.   

There are several references to gardens in key passages of “Candide”. Firstly, Candide’s uncle banishes him from the village home when he sees Candide kissing Cunégonde in the family garden. This is presumed to be a satirical allusion to the biblical tale of the Garden of Eden and, therefore, a reference to the Church and its representation of the story.

Candide gets the chance to enjoy an incredible landscape of great natural beauty in El Dorado, all of which is even better and more beautiful than the house of the Baron. No matter how fantastic the setting, however, it is merely fleeting on the journey of Candide. Towards the end of the story, the primary protagonist purchases a farm and devotes the remainder of his life to working in and cultivating a garden. This is an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson about life and allows him to channel his energy and commitment into his farm in exchange for the complacency of his earlier philosophizing. Candide and his friends seem to derive considerable relief from his transition from his previous lifestyle to finally taking an interest in meaningful work.

Although it is unfortunate, the symbolism of the transition in Candide’s life i.e. his new-found dedication to a gardening life, isn’t entirely clear. This Candide essay suggests it is likely that it reflects the considerable change in Candide’s character and the start of an entirely new and more meaningful direction. It is possible he saw different sides to himself in the different gardens. In opting to live and cultivate his own garden, he is choosing self-improvement and an understanding of the value of performing essential tasks in life. This aspiration and understanding comes from being at peace with oneself, in harmony with the rest of mankind and being able to abolish any negative feelings that are an obstacle to personal development and growth. 

Despite his earlier philosophizing, Candide makes this important transition to a new life. Once he rejects Pangloss’ philosophy and behavior, Candide begins to consider his own behavioral pattern, abolishing the selfishness, complacency and insolence that marked his early personality. He begins creating something that is entirely his.

Conversely though, Candide’s transformation and complete dedication to his garden should not be taken as a completely new beginning. It should be considered more as a swapping of the philosophy of Pangloss for that of farmer. While it may indicate signs of a more noble commitment to the world around him, cultivating a garden could also be seen as escapism or taking refuge from committing himself too deeply to a world that overflows with pain and suffering. This is quite an opposing view to the previous one associated with Candide’s course of action.    

Looking back to the first garden that Voltaire introduced in his tale, it could also be understood that the Garden of Eden was a failed effort to renew the chastity and faith that Candide lost through numerous challenges and misfortunes.