All Is Not For The Best

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"All is Not for the Best" 10-K Candide Voltaire's Candide is

the story of an innocent man's experiences in a mad and evil

world, his struggle to survive in that world, and his need to

ultimately come to terms with it. All people experience the

turmoil of life and must overcome obstacles, both natural

and man-made, in order to eventually achieve happiness. In

life, "man must find a medium between what Martin (scholar

and companion to Candide) calls the "convulsions of

anxiety" and the "lethargy of boredom"" (Richter 137). After

a long and difficult struggle in which Candide is forced to

overcome misfortune to find happiness, he concludes that all

is not well (as he has previously been taught by his tutor, Dr.

Pangloss), and that he must work in order to find even a

small amount of pleasure in life. Candide grows up in the

Castle of Westphalia and is taught by the learned

philosopher, Dr. Pangloss. Candide is abruptly exiled from

the castle when found kissing the Baron's daughter,

Cunegonde. Devastated by the separation from Cunegonde,

his true love, Candide sets out to different places in the hope

of finding her and achieving total happiness. On his journey,

he faces a number of misfortunes, among them being

tortured during army training, yet he continues to believe that

there is a "cause and effect" for everything. Candide is

reunited with Cunegonde, and regains a life of prosperity,

but soon all is taken away, including his beloved Cunegonde.

He travels on, and years later he finds her again, but she is

now fat and ugly. His wealth is all gone and so is his love for

the Baron's daughter. Throughout Candide, we see how

accepting situations and not trying to change or overcome

obstacles can be damaging. Life is full of struggles, but it

would be nonproductive if people passively accepted

whatever fate had in store for them, shrugging off their

personal responsibility. Voltaire believes that people should

not allow themselves to be victims. He sneers at naive,

accepting types, informing us that people must work to

reach their utopia (Bottiglia 93). In Candide, reality and "the

real world" are portrayed as being disappointing. Within the

Baron's castle, Candide is able to lead a Utopian life. After

his banishment, though, he recognizes the evil of the world,

seeing man's sufferings. The only thing that keeps Candide

alive is his hope that things will get better. Even though the

world is filled with disaster, Candide has an optimistic

attitude that he adopted from Dr. Pangloss' teachings. In

spite of his many trials, Candide believes that all is well and

everything is for the best. Only once, in frustration, does he

admit that he sometimes feels that optimism is "the mania of

maintaining that all is well when we are miserable" (Voltaire

41). Candide's enthusiastic view of life is contrasted with,

and challenged by the suffering which he endures throughout

the book. Voltaire wrote this book in a mocking and satirical

manner in order to express his opinion that passive optimism

is foolish (Richter 134). Candide eventually learns how to

achieve happiness in the face of misadventure. He learns that

in order to attain a state of contentment, one must be part of

society where there is collective effort and work. Labor,

Candide learns, eliminates the three curses of mankind:

want, boredom, and vice. In order to create such a society,

man must do the following: love his fellow man, be just, be

vigilant, know how to make the best of a bad situation and

keep from theorizing. Martin expresses this last requirement

for such a society succinctly when he says, "Let's work

without speculating; it's the only way of rendering life

bearable" (Voltaire 77). One of the last people that Candide

meets in his travels is an old, poor Turkish farmer who

teaches Candide a lesson which allows him to come to terms

with the world and to settle down happily. The revelation

occurs when Candide and his friends hear of the killing of

two intimate advisors of the sultan, and they ask the Turkish

farmer if he could give them more details about the situation.

"I know nothing of it, said the good man, and I have never

cared to know the name of a single mufti [advisor] or vizier

[sultan]... I presume that in general those who meddle in

public business sometimes perish miserably, and that they

deserve their fate; but I am satisfied with sending the fruits of

my garden there." (Voltaire 76) Upon learning that this man

did not own "an enormous and splendid property" (Voltaire

76), but rather a mere twenty acres that he cultivates with his

children, Candide is startled. He sees that the man is happy

with his life, and at that point Candide decides to build his

own life around the principal of being productive. He

decides that all he needs to be happy is a garden to cultivate

so that he, too, can keep from the three great evils.

Candide's garden symbolizes his surrender to the world and

his acceptance of it. He eventually realizes that his former

ambitions of finding and achieving a perfect state of

happiness were fulfilled, though his successes were not as

great as he had wished. Instead, he has found happiness in a

simple way of life. He also learns that everything in life is not

evil, which he perceived to be the case while undergoing

misfortunes. He also concludes that Dr. Pangloss was right

all along, "everything is for the best." Throughout the entire

book, we observe Candide searching for happiness,

sustained by his dream of achieving that happiness. He

believes, in his optimistic way, that he will find Cunegonde,

his true love, and Dr. Pangloss, his mentor, and all will be

well. When Candide is reunited with both he realizes that he

was right not to lose hope. In essence, it was Candide's

optimism that keeps him from a state of total dejection,

maintaining his sanity during troubled times. Candide

eventually achieves happiness with his friends in their simple,

yet full, lives. The book's ending affirms Voltaire's moral that

one must work to attain satisfaction. Work helps Candide

overcome his tragedies and enables him to live peacefully

and in contentment. The message of Candide is: "Don't

rationalize, but work; Don't utopianize, but improve. We

must cultivate our own garden, for no one is going to do it

for us" (Richter 161). Works Cited Bottiglia, William.

"Candide's Garden." Voltaire: A Collection of Critical

Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Richter,

Peyton. Voltaire. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Tsanoff, Radoslav. Voltaire's Candide and the Critics.

California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1966.

Voltaire. Candide. New York: Viking Publishers, 1976.
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