Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A world where all is well

Candide is constantly searching for the world Pangloss promises him. This search lands him in a lot of trouble, and his friends and traveling companions are constantly dying and falling into bad situations because of him. When Candide is exiled from the Baron’s castle, he is described as being “driven from terrestrial paradise” (3). This recalls Adam and Eve being expulsed from the Garden of Eden, and Candide is now left to wander lost and hungry. Through Candide’s misadventures, it becomes clear that Pangloss's unrelenting optimism is not a correct view of the world, instead it is a view that makes Candide much more susceptible to misfortune. However, when Candide enters El Dorado (“the golden” in Spanish), it seems he has found another Eden. Material wealth is abundant in El Dorado, so much so that it is worthless. The landlords with whom Candide and Cacambo dine tell them they “doubtless have not the money of the country,” but nevertheless do not expect payment from the two men (42). Candide and Cacambo conclude that the country they are in must be one “where all is well; for there absolutely must be one such place” (42). The adventurers are then brought to an old man who used to be a member of the king’s court. He explains that it was ordained long ago that none of the inhabitants would be allowed to leave the kingdom, which has “preserved [their] innocence and happiness” (43). The geographic location of El Dorado has also protected them from the voracious greed of the outside world. This peace ensures the happiness of all the citizens. Even in the case of religion, they are “all of one opinion” (44).

Riches are worthless to the citizens of El Dorado because they do not interact with the outside world. El Dorado's very name shows the emphasis that the outside world places on wealth. This is seen again when Candide leaves the city with a large amount of gold and precious stones. Candide leaves this Eden, not only because of his love for Cunegonde, but also because he realizes that if he remains in El Dorado, he and Cacambo “shall only be on even footing with the rest […] whereas if [they] return to [their] old world […] [they] shall be richer than all the kings in Europe” (46). This thought process shows the greed caused by a lifetime of conditioning in the old world that has been instilled in Candide, as well as his and Cacambo's insatiable need for travel and change. Although Candide is always looking for a place “where all is well,” he seems to greatly dislike stability if it means that he is not able to get what he wants. His misadventures after leaving El Dorado can be seen as a warning against greed, as his assembled wealth make him and his companions targets for many people. El Dorado seems like a utopia for Voltaire, a world where everyone is relatively equal and can devote themselves to the betterment of the human race (exemplified by the scientists that Candide and Cacambo meet). The citizens of El Dorado all seem free to pursue their own happiness as well, with the exception of not being able to leave the country. Candide and Cacambo leave a seemingly perfect Enlightenment environment in favor of a world fraught with inequality, unhappiness, hypocrisy, corruption, and instability.

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