Voltaire Candide Essay

1077 words - 5 pages

Seung (Peter) Baek His 1C: Dis 1FApr 15 2014History 1C:First PaperThe Unidentified GardenHow do you interpret the last line of Candide, "Let us cultivate our garden?Seung (Peter) In Baek: 804117200Fueled by the Enlightenment, the Eighteenth Century opened a new chapter for the "West to rule" (Russel, April 7th). All across Europe, revolutionary and radical philosophers advanced humanity into reason and away from old tradition. The enlightenment thinker's rushed to acquire knowledge and a sense of enthusiasm or hope for humanity predominated the continent. However, in Candide, Voltaire ends his satire with the scene of the mutualized and aged heroes of the tale. The gloomy and grotesque ending plays with the reader's expectation of a cheerful ending stemming from Chaucer or the genre of Courtly love. At the last scene the harshly mutilated heroes, caused by torture and hardships, make a visit to an old man's garden -- offering a glimpse of hope for the reader. The garden owned by the Turk is plentiful in fruit and is obstructed from "weariness, vice and want" (Voltaire, 86). Depicted as a paradise, the garden is small but efficient, nesting a diverse array of tropical fruits. Echoed through the symbol of eating and the importance placed upon food, the garden is juxtaposed to the zealous religion, unproductive nobility and extravagant philosophical norms that oppress reason and common sense throughout the tale. The parody's last line "Let us cultivate our garden," encourages the use of common sense and the rationale; rooted in reality of daily lives and absent from old tradition.[1: A celebrated poet from the middle ages.]Through the use of a mocking tone in the narrative voice in the exposition and descriptive setting of the castle, Voltaire exposes the arrogance of the aristocracy and flaw in their crumbling political system. In the opening lines of the novel the third person narrative opens with: "The baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate but windows" (Voltaire, 1). Ironically, although the Baron is dominant, his castle is described as a rudimentary outdated house that "even hung tapestry" (Voltaire, 1). The sarcastic tone found in the exposition criticizes the arrogance of the nobility and their outdated disintegrating social system. This bitter quality repeats in the Baron's fat lady weighting 350 pounds, representing the gluttony and greed in the aristocracy seen from Candide's father who could "not marry because he had been able to prove only 71 quarterings" (Voltaire, 1). Without logic there is no progress and the household is left to decay with the one in power fattened up by avarice. Through the follies seen in the aristocracy, Voltaire advocates for common sense, reason and a break away from tradition.The juxtaposition of holy religious morals to the unforgiving reality of the Church reveals the practices and superstitions of the old order to be absurd, irrational and contradictory. Pangloss and Candide are captured for promoting freedom of speech. Even more absurd, the "University of Coimbra and the religious order decide to "[burn] a few people alive…to hinder the earth from quaking" (Voltaire, 13). As Candide is forced to watch the death of his dear teacher while Candide is violently whipped, the illogicality of the ritual is contrasted to the charitable actions James the Anabaptist who was "never christened" (Voltaire, 6). Although, not part of the dominant faith, James is the only one who helps Candide out of a "rational soul" (Voltaire, 6). The contrast of the humanitarian act of James amplifies and highlight the irrationality of what the religious rituals entail and how not one christen helped Candide. Through this juxtaposition of morals, Voltaire suggests reason and charity is absent from the religious institutions, perpetuating religious zeal and insanity.Through the indirect characterization of Pangloss and his neglect of the present, Voltaire shuns away abstract, unreasoned and optimistic thinking seen in religion. When falling stones wound Candide, he constantly yells for help in the mist of death. However, Pangloss is too preoccupied trying to explain the cause of the earthquake. Soon Candide faints. Pangloss's abstract way of thinking renders him impractical. He is blinded by sophisticated philosophy, naming a massive list of philosophers to come to the conclusion: "grandeur is dangerous" after visiting the old man's garden (Voltaire, 87). Pangloss is unable to find meaning in the garden and does not decide to progress and make use of his experience in the old man's garden. Although a pupil of reason, Pangloss's abstract scholarly way of thinking diverts him incapable to see the present rationally. From the folly and silliness of Pangloss, Voltaire condemns optimistic abstract thinking and encourages the use of common sense; rooted in reality.In the end Candide always retorts back to the subject of eating after religious inquiry or in the mist of philosophical discussions --"I want bread", "get me a little wine and oil and "let us have supper" (Voltaire, 6, 11, 19) Here, food is a physical priority to the body and is essential for the growth of human kind. Symbolic for reason, the last lines of the novel "let us cultivate the garden," criticizes and denounces the absurdity of the religious zeal, aristocratic arrogance, and Pangloss's sermons. By juxtaposing the garden, reminiscent to the paradise of the Garden of Eden, to the backdrop of all the horrors and irrationalities of the world, Voltaire advocates reason as common sense that will perpetuate humanity-- like the rich garden of the Turk.BibliographyRussel, Jacoby. "The age of Enlightenment." UCLA. Dodd 121. 7th April 2014. Lecture.Votaire. Candide . New York: Dover Publications, 1991. P r int.1


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