Candide In one of his most famous works, Candide, Voltaire leaves no stone unturned in terms of what he satirizes. Though a great many topics are touched upon, Voltaire ultimately uses Candide to satirize the philosophy of optimism offered by the German philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. By examining Voltaire’s satire of armies, we can see that he uses the pointless atrocities and violence in Candide as a basis to discredit the German philosophy of optimism. The first instance in which Voltaire utilizes armies to discredit the philosophy of ptimism occurs shortly after Candide is banished from Westphalia.
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After simply toasting to the good health of the Bulgarian king, soldiers handcuff him and take him to their regiment. Here he is trained as a soldier and beaten, “they gave him thirty blows with a cudgel. The next day he did his exercise a little less badly, and he received but twenty blows. The day following they gave him only ten, and he was regarded by his comrades as a prodigy (Ch. 2). ” Candide has been taken against his will to Join an army, and even with his full compliance he is beaten. Here Voltaire is atirizing the violence that takes place within armies.
He is illustrating how much needless violence there is that is evident in warring armies. Voltaire continues to use needless violence throughout the story to illustrate his argument against optimism. Another way Voltaire uses armies to invalidate the philosophy of optimism in Ch. 2 when Candide goes for a walk. With his short walk in the woods marked as desertion, Candide is court-martialed and offered the choice of being flogged thirty-six times by his whole regiment or having twelve musket balls shot into his brain.
Being a student of Pangloss, and thus subscribing to an optimistic outlook, Candide uses “the divine gift called free-will” to choose the floggings. In this case we see that Voltaire is both satirizing the foolishness of the army for punishing someone for taking a walk as well as including a hint of satire with Candide’s notion of his “divine gift. ” There is a sense of optimism in Candide’s ability to choose his undeserved consequence. Voltaire uses this exaggerated punishment of four thousand floggings to once again satirize the harshness of armies.
Voltaire offers yet another example of the cruelty of armies when Candide arrives in England. Candide witnesses an admiral shot in the head by three soldiers near a crowd of people and decides to inquire about the atrocity. The response to Candide’s inquiry was that the admiral had failed to kill a sufficient amount of people, specifically the French admiral. Voltaire is satirizing the army’s decision making and pointing out their absurd methods. In the same scene Candide attempts to reason with his new acquaintance and is told that “in this country it is found good, from time o time, to kill one Admiral to encourage the others. This ludicrous explanation is not logical in any way and is a further satirization of the army’s reasoning. Voltaire uses Candide’s ventures in, and around the army to expose the direct contradiction to Pangloss’ teachings which really reflect Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism. As a student of Pangloss, Candide is always looking at the bright side and is truly optimistic. When the soldiers first found Candide they offered to pay for his the right thing for them to do saying, miou are right, this is what I was always taught y Mr.
Pangloss, and I see plainly that all is for the best. ” Candide’s optimism blinds him to the fact that he is being deceived and Voltaire uses this scene to show that optimism is not a sound ideology to hold. Voltaire’s satirization of armies helps to shed light on his critiques of the German philosophy of optimism as proposed by Leibniz. Voltaire seriously criticizes the philosophy of optimism, but is he right? In the words of Pococurante, “Fools admire everything in an author of reputation. ” So is Voltaire right or are we simply fools?