Candide And Pope's Optimism Essay

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Optimism in Voltaire’s Candide and Pope’s Essay on Man While both Voltaire and Alexander Pope hold optimistic views on the world, they reach very different types of optimism through very different approaches. Pope’s optimism is grounded in determinism, a system of faith that puts the reigns in the hands of a higher power and states that all things happen in furtherance of some ultimate goal. Voltaire’s optimism, on the other hand, is grounded in his belief in free will and the weight of one’s decisions. Each author’s form of optimism is deceptive and can appear pessimistic. Despite the similarity in tone, the general message conveyed differs greatly between the two thinkers. Alexander Pope shared Gottfried Leibniz’s view that ours is the best of all possible worlds. According to this worldview, everything is according to God’s plan and people are incapable of understanding this plan. Therefore, mankind should…show more content…
Voltaire believes that the ability to make mistakes and act freely is a natural right of all mankind. In Candide, Voltaire parodies Leibniz’s claim by following the turbulent journey of a young Leibnizian, Candide. At first, it may seem that Voltaire is parodying the overwhelming optimism of this stance. Candide is subject to many unfortunate happenings, from his banishment from Westphalia and his involuntary recruitment into the Bulgarian army to the decimation of a small village in the path of a war, all in the first three chapters. Candide goes on to witness the worst aspects of humanity and nature in pursuit of a better life and encountering many different philosophical schools of thought along the way. Candide’s optimistic views are dismantled and rebuilt multiple times throughout the novel and, at one point, he defines optimism to his friend, Cacambo, as “the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.” (Voltaire, p
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