Candide: Discussion Essay

894 words - 4 pages

Voltaire’s novel, Candide, features satire as social commentary on religion, maltreatment of women, slavery, money, philosophies, and societal ideas that were prominent during the course of the Enlightenment. Through the characters Cunegonde and the old woman, Voltaire exposes that women were seen as property and secondary citizens; they were treated as weak, helpless individuals that needed a high ranking husband to ensure a jubilant life. For instance, Cunegonde’s father decides who she will marry despite who she is truly in love with. Women of this time didn’t marry for love, their marriages were often arranged.
In Constantinople, Cunegonde and the old woman were both slaves and were treated horribly by the men there. It was not until Candide purchased them that they finally gained their independence. Later, the old woman tells of being raped and mutilated in an ordinary, relaxed tone and describes it as being “common”. Voltaire expresses in the aforementioned scenes, that women were beheld as property belonging to men. Cunegonde, being shared by the Grand Inquisitor and the Jewish merchant, is also an example of this. Voltaire’s views regarding the treatment of women were similar to those of Montesquieu in his book The Persian Letters, where he specifically discussed the men of Paris and their views on a woman’s place and purpose in society.
Hypocrisy and religious persecution by the Roman Catholic Church is an important aspect of the Enlightenment that is discussed in the book. For instance, almost all of the religious figures repeatedly break canon law and disregard their virtuous duties. The Baron belonged to the Jesuits and his family is living better than the poor people they should have been aiding. James, the Anabaptist character, is used by Voltaire to contrast sincere Christian values with the fraudulent values of the Roman Catholic Church. Out of everyone, James was genuinely the nicest person Candide met on his voyage. When Candide and his friends became shipwrecked, James took him in and gave him a job as well as pay for Pangloss’s recovery. James also dies an honorable death by saving a churlish sailor. James’s character is also used by Voltaire to denounce the theory of optimism by using the Anabaptist perspective of the world and the cause of its woe.
One of the biggest examples of clergy corruption is the old woman’s existence. The Pope, which is her father, took a vow of celibacy and should not have any children. Voltaire uses this to magnify the past corruption of Pope Alexander VI involving his son Cesare Borgia. In addition, Voltaire explicitly satirizes the Dutch concerning their Christian beliefs. There is...

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