Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer who embraced the ideals of a free and liberal society, along with freedom of religion and free commerce. His book, Candide, was a satire, funny, well done and relevant to the times but Voltaire’s purpose was to use wit to make his points.
He made fun of the teachings of the Church, but he was pushing for religious freedom. He had strong opinions and Candide was a tool to presenting his thoughts. The book is one of the most significant works of Western Canon due to its portrayal of the human condition.
The story is intended to satirize the idea of optimism. The approach was developed in the events of a trip which allowed the author to interchange the tragedy and the comedy within the various situations that occurred. This was a unique approach but provided a way to look at good and evil, as well as the role of God and Government in people’s lives. The satirical approach allowed him cover to focus on criticism.
A simple story, a young man leaves his home because he has been caught kissing the wrong person. Sill optimistic he joins the army. He is flogged and later almost burned alive. He continues to believe that he is indeed living in the "best of all possible worlds", as he was taught growing up, and sets out to see the world. Nothing goes well with one tragedy after another. Funny but sad. Then, after what seems to be an endless ordeal, he returns and settles for life in a garden. Even so, still optimistic perhaps, he says that "we must cultivate our garden".
Voltaire’s book, and his story, challenge the idea that "all is for the best" in a world where it is often assumed that things "work out for the best".
“Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable. For my part I read only to please myself and like only what suits my taste.”
“Optimism," said Cacambo, "What is that?" "Alas!" replied Candide, "It is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.”
“If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?”