Rational Characters Versus Irrational Characters In Candide English Literature Essay

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Reason is a mental sense found in an individual that is able to generate conclusions from assumptions or premises. In other words, it is among other things the means the way that rational beings propose specific explanations of cause and effect. Rationality, by definition, is the exercise of reason within an individual being. This is presented in the story through the characters; Candide, Cacambo, the old woman, and the farmer. Irrationality is cognitive thinking, talking or acting without inclusion of reason. This is presented in the story through the characters; Pangloss, Martin, Cunégonde, and the Baron.

Candide, the protagonist of the novel, is a good-hearted but hopelessly naïve young man. His mentor, Pangloss, teaches him that their world is "the best of all possible worlds." After being banished from his adopted childhood home, Candide travels the world and meets with a wide variety of misfortunes, all the while pursuing security and following Cunégonde, the woman he loves. His faith in Pangloss's undiluted optimism is repeatedly tested. Candide is less a realistic character than a conduit for the attitudes and events that surround him. His opinions and actions are determined almost entirely by the influence of outside factors. It seemed to me at first that Candide was an irrational character, but I felt differently by the time I finished the story. He is the one who suggests that he and his comrades move from the temptations of the city to the quiet easy life on the farm. I thought that the way that he continuously fights for his love, against all odds along with his solution to all the characters' problems made Candide one of the most rational characters of the story. Cacambo becomes Candide's "bodyguard" when he travels in South America. A mixed-race native of the Americas, Cacambo is highly intelligent and morally honest. He is savvy and single-handedly rescues Candide from a number of scrapes. He is also directly responsible for Candide's reunion with Cunégonde. As a practical man of action, he stands in direct opposition to ineffectual philosophers such as Pangloss and Martin. In my opinion, Cacambo is the most rational character of the story. Everything he does throughout the story is rational in helping his friend Candide in his journey of love. He saves Candide over and over, which is a very rational thing to do for a friend. The old woman was born the daughter of a Pope. She has experienced the death of a fiancé, rape by pirates, slavery, and cannibalism in wartime. She becomes Cunégonde's servant. Her misfortunes have made her cynical about human nature, but she does not give in to self-pity. She is wise, practical, and loyal to her mistress. Though she has often been close to suicide, she always finds a reason to live. I think that the old lady falls under the category of rational because of her reactions. She has simply had a tough life, and instead of being depressed or overly optimistic, I believe that she has found a good balance. The farmer has a modest farm outside Constantinople. Candide and his friends are impressed with his lifestyle of hard work and simple pleasures, and adopt it for themselves. I believe that the farmer is rational because he ignores the sin and temptations of the city to live a simple, hardworking life and earn his own way through life rather than have any real help.

Every rational character is contradicted by an equally irrational character. Pangloss is a philosopher and Candide's tutor. His optimistic belief that this world is "the best of all possible worlds" is the primary target of the novel's satire. Pangloss's own experiences challenge this belief, but he remains faithful to it nonetheless. He is an exaggerated parody of overly optimistic Enlightenment philosophers. Pangloss is irrational in my opinion because he has had so many misfortunes in his life that he has the right to be at least a little bit sad. Yet, he stays way more optimistic than anyone in their right mind should be. I also believe that Pangloss' philosophy itself is irrational because nothing in this world is perfect, and his biggest belief seems to be that everything is perfect and happens for a reason. This couldn't be more untrue. Martin is a cynical scholar whom Candide befriends as a travel companion. Martin has suffered a great deal in his life and preaches a philosophy of undiluted pessimism. More knowledgeable and intelligent than either Candide or Pangloss, Martin is nonetheless a flawed philosopher. Because he always expects nothing but the worst from the world, he often has trouble seeing the world as it really is. Martin is irrational for exactly the opposite reason of Pangloss. I believe that Martin is irrationally over pessimistic. Everyone has a little pessimism in their life, but it seems as though Martin lives by it. I mean he has the right to be sad about some of the things that have happened to him, but there has been good too that Martin seems unaware of. His pessimistic character is a little bit over the top. Cunégonde is the daughter of a German baron who acts as Candide's benefactor until he discovers Candide's love for his daughter. Throughout much of the novel, Cunégonde is young and beautiful. After her father's castle is destroyed in war, a number of exploitative men enslave her or use her as a mistress. Cunégonde returns Candide's love but is willing to betray him for the sake of her own interests. Like him, she is neither intelligent nor complex. Her very blandness casts a satiric light on Candide's mad romantic passion for her. She is irrational because she has someone who loves her so much and would do anything to be with her and she doesn't seem like she really cares. There are people who would die to find someone like that. It appears as though she cares more about herself than others or what others are doing for her. I believe that is both irrational and stupid. The baron is Cunégonde's brother. After his family's castle is destroyed in wartime, he becomes a Jesuit priest. It is implied numerous times that he has homosexual tendencies. He is arrogant about his family's noble lineage and, though he is fond of the commoner Candide, he refuses to allow Candide to marry Cunégonde. His egotism towards his family and his denial of Candide's marriage proposal to his sister is irrational and unnecessary.

In conclusion, the story Candide, in my opinion gives the reader a lesson on what reason is through the presentation of rational and irrational characters.

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