Candide Analysis

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The novella Candide, written by Voltaire, follows the story of the young and naïve Candide, who journeys his way across South America and Europe in search of his love, Cunegonde. Along the way, he experiences slow disillusionment of his philosopher Pangloss’ theory of Optimism as he faces the world’s hardships and corruption. Inspired by numerous events of his time, Voltaire challenges the ideas of the Enlightenment in his fast-paced satirical novella. Among one of those challenged ideas is the representation of women. Women in the 18th century experienced very little freedom due to their gender roles in society, as they were under the submission of men. These outdated expectations and mistreatment were expressed through imagery, motifs, and stereotypes that were integrated into the characters Cunegonde, the old woman, and Paquette. Voltaire’s characterization of female characters in Candide challenges the treatment and societal expectations of women. One of the most prominent methods that Voltaire uses to emphasize his point is through imagery and comedic relief. After escaping the Bulgarian Army, Candide finds Pangloss, overridden with syphilis, on the streets. Pangloss tells Candide about the invasion of castle Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh and Cunegonde’s subsequent “disembowelment” and rape from the Bulgar soldiers. This imagery and nonchalonce gives a slight humorous tone while depicting a rather horrific incident, resulting in readers ignoring its violent undertone.
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