Humor and satire, two spices when used correctly are enough to make any piece of literary work burst with flavor. As exemplified in Candide, humor and satire add a comical touch to what would probably be a sad and emotional joy ride. These humor and satire are brought about in a story by using character such as Pangloss. Who despite being beaten on every inch of the path is still able to live happily due to his extreme optimistic view on life. As Candide travels the world and experiences tragedies he tries to maintain Pangloss's teaching about optimism; "Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" (Voltaire, 184). However, as Candide explores the world; Pangloss's teaching is consistently tested using different characters and tragedies that come his way.
Candide listened to Pangloss's lecture with undivided attention and he truly believed in his teaching about optimism. As Candide says "Dr. Pangloss always told me, and I see clearly that everything is for the best" (Voltaire, 187). Pangloss's teaching had a great deal of impact on Candide's view on life and different situation, as he was unaware of the real world outside of Baron's castle, he believed that everything is always for the best. It is important to understand Pangloss and his teaching in order to understand how Pangloss's teachings are consistently again and again tested in this story. As Scherr describes Pangloss "Perhaps the most celebrated character in Voltaire's Candide, Pangloss, the ridiculous scholar and pseudo-philosopher, has entertained millions of readers with his incorrigibly stubborn optimism and unintentional humor" (Scherr, 87). In this essay different characters and their situations will test the persistent optimism. Is everything really always for the best?
Immediately after leaving the most optimistic and familiar environment the Barons castle Candide undergoes through the real life circumstances. As he is hungry, and he gets gauntlet, and finally after hiding and running away from there he reaches Holland. Candide approaches " a man who had just been talking to a large crowd for an hour on end; the topic was charity. . . I am in need of bread. You don't deserve any, said the other; away with you, you rascal, you rogue, never come near me as long as you live" (Voltaire 189). Ironically orator a church man who just spoke about charity is refusing to donate a piece of bread. Sadly enough this situation mocks the church of not practicing what they preach. Later the orator's wife "emptied over his head a pot full of _____Scandalous! The excesses into which women are led by religious zeal!" (Voltaire, 190). As looking back to Pangloss's theory of optimism, one can question how is getting a pot full of urine over your head any best. Is this the best of all possible worlds with best of all possible people that we can be? Out of many inhuman situations that Voltaire depicts in this story this being one of them that makes, one question about optimism.
Unlike the orator and his wife Jacques the Anabaptist assists Candide and Pangloss. Jacques's character in this story is one that is not inhuman, self-centered or heartless. Jacques helps Candide with food and helps him get job and later helps Pangloss to cure his disease and takes them both to Lisbon on business trip. Candide and Pangloss are forever Indebted to the charity of Jacques. As they are on their way to Lisbon an earthquake comes there way and a sailor falls off a boat where good Jacques ran to help and in process he fall overboard in the sea. The sailor did nothing to assist Jacques. As Candide "he wanted to dive to his rescue; but the philosopher Pangloss prevented him by providing that the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for this Anabaptist to drown in" (Voltaire, 192). Pangloss's optimistic reasoning's are deadly, egotistical, gibberish, and serves no purpose at times. Perhaps Jacques who assisted Candide and Pangloss could have been saved if not for Pangloss's lecture to Candide. Jacques's character is charitable, honest, benevolence, and sympathetic. Yet everything did not work out the best of the best for him. Jacques ended up dying helping someone who did not even lean over to rescue him. Jacques salvaged Pangloss, Candide and the sailor, and out of three, no one did anything to help him. This really conflicts with the theory of optimism, because if everything was for best then why Jacques did not get the best.
It seems as the concept of optimism is constantly challenge even in the case of Cunegonde and The old woman. The old woman is "the daughter of Pope urban the Tenth and the Princess of Palestrina" (Voltaire, 200). She was raped, butured , sold like a property, and treated like inhuman over and over. The old woman describes her story, "imagine if you will, the situation of a pope's daughter, fifteen years old, who in three months' time had experienced poverty, slavery, had been raped almost every day, had seen her mother quartered, had suffered from famine and war" (Voltaire, 203). The old woman has nothing to be grateful for everyone has used her for their own pleasure either sexual or non-sexual it shows we don't live in best of all possible world. If we do live in the best world then is this the best that we can find? It is interesting to see that even at this point Pangloss says that everything is for the best. Cunegonde as Pangloss says "She was disemboweled by the Bulgar soldiers, after having been raped to the absolute limit of human endurance; they smashed the Baron's head when he tried to defend her, cut the Baroness to bitsâ€¦(Voltaire, 190-191). Both ladies Cunegonde and the The old woman were raped and sold as if they were property this is quite the contrary of the best of all possible world. Some might say the ruthless crimes, and merciless actions would not happen in the best of all possible world. Through both of the ladies experiences you can see the idea of optimism really being tested.
At the end even the hero of the optimism the Pangloss, questions his own belief. Is everything really for the best. Just like other characters in the story Pangloss suffers through the life from being robed, beaten, left hungry, lost an ear and an eye he still remained optimist till the end. Some might believe that it is because he couldn't back down on what he had been preaching for so long time. As stated in the essay by Scherr "Pangloss only regrets his optimistic philosophy at the end of Chapater 30, when he meets Paquette and blames her for giving him syphilis. Bettes claim: 'this is significant because it is the first and only occasion in which Pangloss's optimism deserts him'" (Scherr 93). It is almost as if Pangloss preaches yet he doesn't believe in optimism.