Human Nature In Voltaire's Candide

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Enlightenment was a time of embracing logic and reasoning whilst rejecting untested beliefs and superstition. This time period occurred from the year 1694 until 1795. During this time writers used their medium of the written word to express their beliefs based on logic while denouncing old-world ideologies . During Enlightenment human nature was often put under scrutiny as thinkers strived to find what qualities resulted in the best possible human. In this piece of writing, the reader will be able to see the opinions of human nature held by three great thinkers from this time period: Voltaire, Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe. It must be remembered that in Enlightenment writing there is a lot of overlap between eras which can result in Enlightenment…show more content…
When he is forced to leave this life behind him, one follows Candide’s slow, painful disillusionment as he experiences and witnesses the great injustices and hardships of the world. This text is a satire in which Voltaire satirises Leibniz’s Optimism “not only by the illogical travesty of it which Pangloss parrots throughout the story, but also by juxtaposing it with various atrocities and disasters which the story provides…” (Pearson xx). Voltaire rejects this system of thought, as Enlightenment ideologies try to use “logic and reason [to] somehow explain away the chaotic wretchedness of existence by grandly ignoring the facts” (Pearson xxi). It is in these lines that one can discern the disillusionment that Voltaire was feeling with the world after the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake (Pearson xix). Through the protagonist Candide one can deduce Voltaire’s negative outlook on human nature. He believes every word that Pangloss says, in the same way that people of the day believed everything that the Church would say. At the beginning of the text he blindly worships Optimism and by the end of it he worships the Turk’s philosophy of labour. “I also know… that we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 99). However it does appear that Candide has gained more knowledge and wisdom and has therefore made a more informed decision. Voltaire uses Eldorado as a tool to demonstrate how humans are never content in any setting even ‘paradise’. Paradise does not change Candide’s and Cacambo’s basic human nature. “Sex and vanity are the instruments of the Fall as [they] leave Eldorado in pursuit of their sweethearts and to… show off their riches…” (Pearson xxiv). Eldorado is also used to highlight the mentality we humans have of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. One thinks this even though in countless cases this mentality
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