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Topic: Candide by Voltaire

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Subject: Candide by Voltaire
Date Posted: 6/16/2009 9:00 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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I will give it a go on trying to start the discussion on Candide. Personally, I enjoyed the story. However, I know that some of the context and satire were lost on me. The ending is what really brought it home for me. The idea that after all the hardship all of the characters have been through they finally find peace and happiness by working in a garden. My feeling was that the group came together at the end because they worked together and left all of the philosophy in the past. Symbolism seemed to run rampant throughout the novel. The most significant symbol for me was that of the garden. Pangloss compared the garden to the Garden of Eden. The comparison is a little off for me because the Garden of Eden is the beginning of the story whereas Candide's garden is the end. Also Adam and Eve did not plant the garden like Candide's crew did. I wondered if ending this way was another swipe at religion by Voltaire. He took many of them throughout the book. Any of the religious people we come across with the notable exception of the anabaptist Jacques are painted in a very poor light. The thieving friar, the Pope's daughter and the philandering inquistor. The thing is Jacques is the nicest person that Candide meets during his entire adventure. It leads me to believe that Voltaire did not have a problem with religion just its leaders. In the end with the garden I think that Voltaire is saying that for true happiness we have to get back to the basics and not spend our lives with eternal optimism but looking to the future with a realistic view.

Subject: Lost in the Farce
Date Posted: 6/16/2009 4:02 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Candide was probably a real hoot in its day.  Today, not so much.

I am sure there was humor and wit and satire in between all the flogging and buttocks amputations and misery in general, but all of it went over my head. I don't know enough about French history, religion (other than its hypocrisy in general)  and various philosophies to make a go of it.

I think I am destined to be sent to the "pulp fiction" penitentiary. Patterson, Grisham, and Picoult, here I come :(

 



Last Edited on: 6/17/09 12:24 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/18/2009 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks for starting us off Michael. I agree that the garden of eden didn’t really compare for me either.

 

I’m not a huge fan of irony and exaggeration and that is Voltaire’s primary expressions in Candide. He says the opposite of what he means with subtle humor. However, I liked this book. Voltaire again and again demonstrates that there are bad things happening everywhere . . . you should not have any optimism. Candide is an optimist. Voltaire is very upfront about his beliefs in war – there are no winners and no glory where death and violence abound. I liked the ending. Voltaire indicates that you cannot understand evil or pursue happiness. I interpreted “cultivate your own garden” to mean that by supporting yourself you will find meaning in life which will lead to happiness.

 

I think my favorite part was the Country of Eldorado. If he was writing with irony he was telling us that a utopia or get rich fast does not exist.

 

I did a little research on Voltaire. He experienced, to a much lesser extent, many of the things that happened to Candide. He was imprisoned and exiled in his lifetime. He experienced legal problems and class problems. He believed in god but did not believe that god would intervene on a person’s behalf.

 

Laura – was it the caricature and parody that you didn’t like?

Date Posted: 6/18/2009 5:26 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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I love this book.  I have a real fondness for 18th century literature.

I think I wrote a whole paper at some point on "cultivating your own garden".  I think what he's trying to say is that we can't look at governments or the crown or the church to show us how to live our lives, as these institutions are filled with hypocrisy and self-interest.  We must find our own way in this less than "best of all possible worlds".  Live simply and live well and till your own soil.  I sort of love how open ended his conclusion is.

I love the names of the characters, too.  Pangloss - all tongue in Greek, or "all talk", and Cunegonde, which is really a dirty pun.

ETA - It leads me to believe that Voltaire did not have a problem with religion just its leaders.

This.  Voltaire was a deist (i.e. he believed God created the world, people should be able to worship as they chose,etc.)  Which is one of the things that caused major, major problems for him.  It might be useful to remember that Voltaire's philosophy was a part of the same wave of Enlightenment that helped frame our Constitution.



Last Edited on: 6/18/09 6:27 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/20/2009 2:13 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Laura – was it the caricature and parody that you didn’t like?

It's just my mood and this book didn't match.

 

Date Posted: 6/20/2009 3:53 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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The book took me a little while to get into as well. I put it down more than once before I was finally in the mood for it. Some of what Voltaire is saying I think still has major relevance today. Some of the comedic aspects were over my head. Thanks for the little tidbits about Pangloss and the princess. I figured her name had a double entrende attached to it.



Last Edited on: 6/20/09 3:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1