As in many pieces of literature an entourage of minor characters accompanies Candide and assists and/or hampers his journey Voltaire has these characters express his personal ideas and criticisms of contemporary French society and politics Discuss how

As in many pieces of literature, an entourage of minor characters accompanies Candide and assists and/or hampers his journey. Voltaire has these characters express his personal ideas and criticisms of contemporary French society and politics. Discuss how any one of these minor characters acts as a spokesman for Voltaire’s complaints about French politics, society and culture in the early 18th century.
Candide (first published in 1759) is Voltaire’s best-known work. Not only it is a pleasant reading full of humor and irony, but it also satirizes and calls into question the philosophy of its time. Voltaire, name adopted by François Marie Arouet (1694-1778), was a French Enlightment writer, who criticized the French system of government and the society of the early 18th century. His novel Candide, or Optimism casts doubt on the optimist philosophy which espouses that everything is for the best, and we live in the best of all possible worlds. The protagonist, a boy from Westphalia who lives in a Baron’s castle and is taught by the philosopher Dr. Pangloss, is kicked out of the castle because he kisses Cunégonde, the Baron’s daughter. Afterwards, Candide begins a journey filled with tragedy and a series of misadventures. Across this journey, which takes Candide from Westphalia to Holland, Portugal, South America and Turkey, he met many characters. some of them reappear in different places, like Cunégonde, her brother and Dr. Pangloss. These characters are very important throughout the novel, because they enable to express Voltaire’s ideas on the French society, politics and culture of his time.
Dr. Pangloss is the character who expresses the philosophy challenged in the novel, that is, the optimism espoused by Gottfried Leibniz and Alexander Pope. Pangloss’s optimism, with his support of Leibniz’s thought, is continuously contradicted with everything which Candide experiences out of the castle, for example, his forced recruitment in the war and the earthquake in Lisbon. Pangloss remains true to his believe and maintains it until the end, despite his own sufferings, like the syphilis, and the sufferings of the others. He creates a contrast to the situations and the feelings of the others surrounding him.
On the other hand, the Manichean Martin represents the opposite position, the pessimist who thinks that everything is evil. This character appears after Candide was in El Dorado and returns loaded of treasures, and he creates also a contrast, because it was one of the less negative moments of the journey for Candide, when the protagonist thought that he would find Cunégonde and his situation would improve.
Additionally, Voltaire’s criticism of the Church is represented in the reaction of the Portuguese Inquisition regarding the earthquake and the hypocrisy of the clergy, seen in the case of the old woman, who was the daughter of a Pope and a princess. Furthermore, there is a criticism of the nobility, just interested in superficial values related to their hierarchy, convinced of their superiority, and they are cruel to the people who do not belong to their class. As an example we can see the Baron Thunder-ten-tronck, Cunégonde’s brother and the possible Candide’s mother, the Baron’s sister. These characters are close-minded, not able to change their opinions, despite of all circumstances who demonstrate them that the society requires a different world view. Cunégonde’s brother illustrates this attitude. He disagrees with the marriage of Candide and Cunégonde, although he was a Jesuit and Candide paid ransom for him. Furthermore, Voltaire speaks against social injustice and economic exploitation through the black slave who Candide met in Surinam, mutilated because of an exploitive activity, while he was taught about justice and equality by the religion. The whole absurdity of the optimist philosophy is shown in Pangloss, who believes in Leibniz’s optimism until the end. The dialogs in Candide are philosophy dialogs tested in the real life.
As a conclusion, Voltaire compiles in the minor characters of Candide his ideas and criticism of the Church, the French system of government, the social injustice and the philosophy of optimism, which is unable of console the people victim of tragedies and unfortunate incidents, similar to the ones who Candide met during his journey.
Work Cited
Voltaire. Candide. London: Penguin Books, 2001.