Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Candide and Honesty

I was struck by Candide's name in Candide. The narrator quickly clarifies that he might have been named Candide because he is "quite honest" (Voltaire 1). I found this fascinating because it seems to be a very obvious attempt to have the reader establish immediate trust in Candide's view of the world that is then undermined by referring him as "extremely simple-minded." Furthermore, it is immediately apparent that Candide cannot be trusted because he believes everything that his teacher, Dr. Pangloss, tells him. He truly believes that "everything is necessarily for the best end" (Voltaire 4). While obviously comedic, Candide's trust of everything an authority figure says to him may also be a commentary on the dangers of honest, simple-minded people. Candide receives ample evidence against Dr. Pangloss's teaching including Dr. Pangloss's own fall from glory in Chapter 5. 

I find Candide's name interesting as well because ultimately the social commentary throughout the book is candid. Voltaire has Candide travel the world (Old and New) and laughs and criticizes it all. There is nothing that escapes his criticism, from the Jesuits to war to royalty. The work doesn’t attempt to hide these criticisms so much as reveal them through Candide and through a writing style that captures everything but feels childlike at times as everything is simply presented as the narrator sees it. The style speaks again to Candide’s own simple view of the world and to the honesty with which a simple person sees everything. Much of what Candide accepts because others have told him to do, we question because it doesn’t make sense. This reminds the reader of the many ways the world does not make sense and brings into question how we respond to the many injustices and inconsistencies in our society. 

No comments:

Post a Comment