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Michael Johnathan McDonald

November 9, 2003

Professor Freibergs

(Class: 11:20 A.M T-Th)




European’s main continent has too thank François-Marie Arouet, later known as Voltaire, for bringing the main front of the   age of Enlightenment to its borders. Voltaire, by an exaggeration style in his writings, did more for getting peoples attention to what was happening around them then otherwise would be the case. He was born in 1694 to a middle-class family in Paris. At that time, Louis XIV was king of France, and the vast majority of people in France lived in crushing poverty.  Louis was all about parting and self-absorption.  Louis the XV would take up where  Louis the XIV left off, with his infamous line Après moi, le déluge ( After me, the Deluge) . It was evident that the leading cultural center of Europe, at the time, was spiraling out of control with old middle aged vices.


Voltaire was a prolific writer. He received allot of heat (criticism) for his efforts. He was a poet, playwright, historian, philosopher, and friend of Frederick the Great. One of his most famous books, in which he released under the Pseudonym of “Dr. Ralph” was read much, but not understood by the upper classes of Europe.  Candide is still read today. The high society saw nothing but romantic adventures, in this book, in which they faulty identified, according to I.O. Wade “Voltaire fiendish logic and incident to ridiculed God.” This was far from the fact. It is true that Voltaire détéster (Hated)  the Church, but his writings show that theologically he had no problem with scriptures – it was the people running the Church at them time that was his main focus of the ridicule, veiled in his prose.


One of the fine examples of this comes out of Candide. The story begins off with a ridicules comparison of Nobility loggerhead mentality. Candide, the main character, who is the illegitimate nephew of a German baron of the Castle Thunder-Ten-Tronckh in Westphalia; the Barons sister had an affair with a very fine gentlemen that she was not aloud to marry because he only had seventy-one quartering (a generational figure showing the length of the history of noble heritage) The fact that the Baron’s  lineage goes to Seventy-two quarterings, is a grotesque number to reason with because, nevertheless, these two persons had over two thousand years of noble lineage; for one generation to hold them back was a successful exaggeration by Voltaire, on part, to bring the message home. This showed how trivial and revolting the arrogance of the nobility had become in Europe.


The daughter of the Baron, Conégonde,  who was the affection of Candide , has a romantic scene in which he kisses her, and both fell in love, and both fell to similar circumstances under the auspices of quraterings.  Then war brings upon a separation of the families in the Castle of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh and the story picks up from there on its world wind adventures. Candide is continuously chasing leads to find  Conégonde across the world and our Hero find himself with his beloved Philosopher teacher, who he also grew up with in the Castle  in Westphalia.


Pangloss his Philosopher teacher reinforces Candide worldly outlook to always be optimistic. “Everything is for the best,” he reiterated to Candide who now had this view ingrained into his psyche. Candide’s view became more than mere optimist; he became an “Optimist determinist.” When Candide and Pangloss arrive in Lisbon, they find it destroyed by an earthquake and under the control of the Inquisition. In fact, in November 1, 1755 an actual earthquake killed 35-40 thousand people and caused tremendous destruction in Lisbon.


The Church and Voltaire’s observation of this earthquake would ever lay its hooks into the annals of history. For the immediate response of the leaders of Lisbon was to hold an Auto-da-fé. This human rights abuse practice is about as primitive  as old South American primal tribes sacrificing humans to various gods so that earthquakes, floods, and other disasters will not befall them. Superstitious mentality reined in Europe at the time of Voltaire and was propagated mainly by the Church. This practice had nothing to do with the teachings in the Bible or any of the Biblical prophet’s directives. This was wholly made up and promoted by the controllers of the Church.


The idea of the superstition was to gather the people in the society that had sinned. For example, a person who may have had an affair, or a person who owed a small amount of money and or was late on a payment. Also, people who they thought were strange. They were gathered up and beaten to handicapness and then some were put to the bonfire. The stories of burning people alive, or sometimes after they had been hanged, according to their confessionals – true or forced by tremendous torturing procedures is hard to comprehend in the United States of America, where this type of savagery would be unthinkable. This was a true practice and this exposure given by Voltaire really opened allot of people eyes to inhuman practices of the Church.


The story goes: The public announcement of the sentences imposed by the Inquisition begins. Anyone who has thought to have sinned are rounded up.  Pangloss is soon hanged as a heretic, and Candide is flogged for listening with approval to Pangloss's philosophy. Candide is exaggerating here because, later he heals up quickly and is able to function as a normal man. In reality, after being a victim to the Inquisitions beatings one would be handicapped for the rest of ones life.  However the case may be, the story written to enlighten us ( an the audience of Voltaire back then) had a major impact on people. The renaissance had brought back learning and Classical governments that had some forms of human rights. Here was the opportunity for a man to hit the iron while it was hot. This caused many noble establishment journalists of his day to blast him with all the vitriol of their powerful pens. This was why the authors name was Dr. Ralph.  To Voltaire this was a battle of good vs. evil. Eventually the rest of the European world would see the light, so to speak.


The book covered many issues relevant to all types of people. There are such things as a   peaceful society. For example, in Eldorado (South America) Candide visits a place that his abundant in precious metals, rocks and gold that is plentiful as mud. The main theme is that this place, which has no monks, priests, and monasteries, is basically peaceful. No wars, now conflicts and the people are taught that these precious things around them have no value. This is comparable to Thomas Moore’s Utopia, in which he preached the same theme. However, there is an larger issue, for Candide, in the book when he finds, Conégonde, now old and unattractive, and settles in Turkey, penniless, on a farm.  His unbearable boredom strikes him. This is the same boredom he experienced in Eldorado, in which he left because of monotony.  Peace has its price and so does misery.


Confusion of misery or the lethargy of boredom are two unresolved conflicts in Voltaire’s world. These unsolved issues are the main sticking points in his critiques views. He mentions many reasons why misery happens. One of them is the optimist determination, and the other is predestination, which hints of a possible belief in cause and effect of reincarnation – although the term reincarnation never comes up in the book.  However the more deeper philosophies are enclosed into the tale of Candide, the overwhelming evidence of the impact on the exposure of the corruption on high places strut at a time that the people of Europe were sick and tired of the Nobles control over privilege ( no taxes), life and property rights.



Copyright © 2003 Michael Johnathan McDonald,  

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