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.

4 comments:

TSHAH said...

I find it interesting how Candide is able to recognize that this town is different, and almost perfect (clearly better than the European society that he is currently a part of), yet he can't to seem to associate himself with it. He is able to recognize that that this society is different for the better, but he still can not change his ways and become improve his morals as he still take the jewels from Eldorado, instead of following their principle that material wealth is insignificant. If he notices that this society foster a better way of life, why is his passion for wealth greater than his happiness in a perfect society?

Grant Reggio said...

I agree. One might wish that Cunegonde could have gone with him to Eldorado, because life simply could not get any better than there. I also find it interesting that they use a metal like iron for currency, where as gold is used as building materials for homes and palaces. Kind of a role reversal if you ask me.

Laura N said...

Voltaire makes similar points about relativity of customs that Montaigne made. For instance Montaigne told us that the Indians chose their leaders based on strength and success in battle (things that they valued) while European kings surround themselves with people that could beat them up. Voltaire shows that to be a king or noble person in society, you don't even have to to be rich, honorable, or a good leader, you just have to be born into it. In El Dorado, they're go-to-guy was an elderly wise man, and their king was gracious and treated as an equal. Another aspect of cultural relativism that Voltaire shows is French xenophobia, hatred, and suspicion of foreigners as opposed to El Dorado's hospitality and welcoming of foreigners.

Ben Bonner said...

I think that there are also interesting similarities and differences between Voltaire's Eldorado and Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia. In both soceities, gold and jewels are used as toys to entertain children and aren't given any significant value. In Utopia, they use iron as their currency because of its practical uses. In Eldorado, the government is a monarchy whereas in Utopia, there is an some form of assembly in addition to an executive. This difference reflects the different societies the two authors come from. Another interesting difference is in the religions of the two societies. Eldorado mirrors Voltaire's deism in that they worship God without restricting him to a particular religion, whereas in Utopia everyone is Roman Catholic.