Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candide's Historical Commentary Validity

During the debate we discussed reading "Candide" without having any external influences regarding Voltaire, and the social/political history at the time. I believe that it is necessary to have all of the historical details side by side with Voltiare's "Candide" because Voltiare's certain biases towards groups such as the Jesuit for personal reasons would lead the typical reader to be misinformed about Jesuits during the Enlightenment Era. By reading "Candide", a reader would think that the Jesuits were a terrible group of people, when in reality they were not.

Interpreting the Story of Candide

After the debate, we brought up the idea that there may be a reason for which the ending of the novella is so difficult to make sense of. I can perhaps relate this to the fact that there is never any real expressed goal or aim of Candide's journey. So what does it all mean? Well, we also brought up the potential that it might not mean anything at all, and that lack of meaning is actually the meaning itself. Perhaps, the story could be interpreted as a means to explain how any meaning determined about any story is always a matter of interpretation itself, by the readers nonetheless. Just as I am doing now, many others attempt to interpret the meaning of this novella. If this is the case, then I really have to ask: is there any real meaning intended? Or do we subconsciously reach the meaning (the lack of meaning) by not understanding? Is the fact that we don't understand mean we in fact do, at least unawarely? So, is nothing actually something?

Friday, December 7, 2012

"I think, therefore I am."

Descartes once said, "I think, therefore I am." Descartes was a big proponent of deductive thinking and reasoning. This type of thinking was used a lot in the sciences, and is still used a lot today, in almost every aspect of life. I feel that the Old Woman and Cacambo were definitely deductive thinkers and Voltaire for sure portrayed his support of this type of thinking in his "Candide". Through the use of the characters Cacambo and the Old Woman and their pragmatism. They are practically thinking individuals who make decisions on what to do based on the situation they are in. Whatever is best for them or the people around them at the time they do. They do not try to "fluff" things up regarding their life stories and what they see happening in society. They are "straight-shooters" and I think the reason Voltaire uses them in his novella is to show his readers that sometimes in life, people have to be like Cacambo and the Old Woman.

Frederick the Great and Voltaire

I find it sort of childish that Voltaire would pull such a move as putting mean allusions to Frederick the Great in "Candide". He and Voltaire were such good friends back in the day before they had a little falling out. The problem they had was that he accused Frederick's army of pederasty, a sick crime. The reason for bring this point up in his “Candide” is to not only get back at Frederick for exiling him from Germany, but to also show that other armies, as well as Fredericks, can get out of hand and out of control and end up doing things that were not originally planned (raping people, sacking cities, etc.). I don't care what Ol' Freddy did to Voltaire, that was a low blow, a place where he shouldn't have gone, especially since Voltaire was himself thought to maybe be part of Voltaire's "summer home" in Sanssouci, where it was thought that most this pederasty went down. 

The Grass Is Always Greener

Ben made a point in class today that got me thinking. He said that Voltaire basically made all of his points before he made it to Eldorado and he could have ended the novel there. I don't know about y'all, but I was actually angry when they decided to leave Eldorado. They had it made in the land of dreams, it may not have been what they wanted at the time being, but they should have thought "Wow, the world outside of Eldorado is really quite awful, we have had no luck in our lives up to this point so we might as well just stay here and be happy." But instead they go and blow it all away to bring these sheep so they would be richest people in the world (outside of Eldorado.) and why? Just so they could impress everyone else with how rich they were and marry a woman who Candide ends up not really wanting to marry anyway. They wanted to be leaders of the world, but instead it chewed them up, stole their money, killed their friends, swindled them, and spit them out onto a farm. It was the moment they left Eldorado that I stopped liking the novella, I still enjoyed reading it, but it made me angry that they threw away the perfect life and they don't even act like it was a bad idea.

Could the city of Eldorado be compared to the Allegory of the Cave?

The people in Eldorado have never seen the outside world.  They live in a perfect Utopian like society deep in a valley wedged between two cliffs.  The people here are so used to perfect life that they probably take it for granted.  They have no idea what life is like outside of Eldorado.  I think this is very similar to the Allegory of the Cave that we read in the beginning of the year.  The prisoners are tied up in the cave and have no idea there is an outside world.  One of the prisoners is eventually released and shown the outside world kind of like Candide leaves Eldorado in Candide.  Even though Eldorado is much more glamorous the being trapped in a cave, I think the ideas between Eldorado and the Allegory of the Cave do parallel.  People should not always rely on their senses because life might be much different then what you think it is.

Commentary on Women in "Candide"

I find it interesting that Voltaire commented on the treatment of women during the Enlightenment Era given that women did not have much of a role, or impact during this period. As a whole, women were still treated typically treated as they were in the past, however Voltaire decides to confront Europe about how they treated women. Voltaire illustrates how women were "semi-eaten", raped, and beaten through Cunegonde and the Old Woman whose difficulties (like rape) were so common, that they were not even worth mentioning. Is Voltaire advocating a change in the treatment of women?, or is he simply adding the the plot of the story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Real life events play a part in Candide

After hearing some of the presentations in class today, it is really interesting how effectively Candide uses actual historical events that were going on during the time Candide was written.  For example, one group talked about what the Bulgars and the Abares stood for.  The Bulgars were the Prussians and the Abares were the French.  This makes perfect sense as Voltaire is alluding to the Seven Years' War that was going on during the time Candide was written from 1756-1763.  Voltaire is able to tie Candide's journey into real life events when he is forced to fight for the Bulgars (Prussians).  Voltaire basically writes Candide into the Seven Years' War and provides a tie between the novella and what was going on in the current times back in the 18th century.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Voltaire in relation to Montaigne

I feel like Candide's experience in El Dorado relates to Montaigne's Of Cannibals quite well. Candide asks how the society works and he learns that the people thank God, not pray to him, that they have no courts or prisons, that everything is free, and that everyone practices the arts. In the way that Montaigne says that all different societies have different "normal" things for their life, often quite different from those of another society, Candide seems amazed that the society doesnt have organized religion and that there is no crime. Also, relating to the point even more, the old man who provides candide with this information is also amazed himself that Candide's society doesnt have those norms.

The Dutch

Contrary to our discussion yesterday, I believe that Voltaire was specifically satirizing the Dutch. It cannot be a coincidence that Voltaire consecutively makes three Dutchmen look greedy: the ship's captain, the judge, and in a way Martin all appear to be greedy. All three are obsessed with money, and the common belief at the time was that the Dutch were indeed greedy. The Netherlands is one of the birthplaces of capitalism though, so it would make since that their revolutionary economy be perceived as fostering greed. It wouldn't be beneath Voltaire to aim such blows towards specific groups of people. He was, as we already know, an openly anti-Semitic and anti-Jesuit man.


Candide, Martin, Pangloss, and other chacters spend the entirety of the narrative arguing about philosophy and never really getting anywhere.  Martin's pessimism is never shaken, Candide never seems to be certain of Pangloss's philosophy, and Pangloss, even though he realizes he is wrong, maintains his position simply out of stubborness.  Voltaire repeatedly mocks the philosophers of his time directly and indirectly, particularly Leibniz.  In the last chapter Martin says, "Let's work without speculation, it's the only way of rendering life bearable."  In this, Voltaire seems to be satirizing human nature and, by consequence, the Enlightenment.  The fact that the characters are stagnant and never truely change their opinions and that the reclussive Turk they meet in the last chapter seems to be the only content character in the entire story seems to imply that the idea that there is no limit on human progress or human understanding is intrinsically false.