How is evil depicted in Voltaire's Candide? The problem of evil Candide.

Evil is depicted in Candide principally as an impersonal force which afflicts the characters with suffering, rather than as the result of human agency.

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Voltaire wrote Candide to refute and parody Liebniz's philosophy that our world is the best one God could have created. In Candide , Liebnitz's optimism is summed up in the words of Candide's tutor, Pangloss, who constantly repeats that "all is for the best in the best of all possible...

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Voltaire wrote Candide to refute and parody Liebniz's philosophy that our world is the best one God could have created. In Candide, Liebnitz's optimism is summed up in the words of Candide's tutor, Pangloss, who constantly repeats that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds."

Voltaire depicts the problem in idealist philosophies like Liebniz's by illustrating how naive people like Candide are taken in by these systems of thought and then surprised when the world turns out to be overrun with evil.

Voltaire depicts evil as everywhere, in an over-the-top, exaggerated way, while creating dark humor by having the characters tell very matter-of-factly about the horrors they have survived. Evil is inherent in the human psyche, but Voltaire most particularly critiques the way European customs and institutions have exacerbated the world's evil. Voltaire particularly aims at religious hypocrisy, along with militarism, colonialism, violence, greed, ambition, and enslavement.

Cunegonde, for example, is gang raped and disemboweled by an invading army. Candide is surprised to find her alive in Lisbon, where she matter-of-factly informs him that people can survive those twin horrors. Religious hypocrisy is lampooned as we find a priest has insisted on sharing her sexual favors with a Jew. With a few exceptions, no matter where Candide turns, the worst instincts in human nature and institutions come to the forefront to make life for most people a misery.

Candide finally realizes, after suffering multiple horrors, that maybe it is time to abandon Pangloss's optimistic philosophy. He decides the best life is one of turning inward and away from the world and its ambitions. He and his friends then live quietly, "cultivating their garden."

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Evil is depicted in Candide primarily as something that happens to the characters, rather than as the nature or disposition of any of them. The book begins with Candide being expelled from the magnificent castle where he has grown up in idyllic circumstances, when the Baron catches him in Cunegonde’s embrace. This, however, is presented in neutral terms, not as exceptional lasciviousness on the part of the lovers or as exceptional tyranny on the part of the Baron. Even when human agency is involved, therefore, Voltaire regards evil as impersonal and detached, something that happens rather than something people do. This reflects his theological views, since impersonal evil cannot be blamed on sin.

Many of the evils that befall Candide, Pangloss, and their friends, however, cannot be ascribed to human agency at all. One of the most striking instances is the Lisbon earthquake, the type of event which is often described as an “act of God” and which had a profound effect on Europe in the middle of the eighteenth century, causing many to lose their faith in a God who would permit such a catastrophe. This point about the pervasiveness of evil in a world created by a supposedly good God is made again and again in Candide, and it is clearly most effective when it is hardest to blame the folly and wickedness of human beings for the evil in question.

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Candide is an innocent man, and yet he is victim of many misfortunes and encounters evil in many forms. Evil is in fact everywhere: in Candide's misfortunes, in his struggle to survive, and in the suffering which he sees in his travels.

Candide, however, is an optimist and is hopeful that things will change for the better. He acquired this trait from his master, Pangloss, with whom he travels throughout the story. This obsessive defense of optimism is a narrative device which Voltaire, through Candide, uses to show that the world is not entirely good. Evil is everywhere and men are cruel, as Pangloss and Candide quickly realize.

Throughout their travels they suffer incredibly and experience a variety of terrible situations, ranging from violence to earthquakes, from rapes to unjust deaths. They almost risk being eaten alive! By the end of the novel, even Pangloss cannot find a justification for these terrible things and is forced to review his optimistic vision of the world. In the end, the Earth is not the best of all possible worlds created by God. It is simply another world in which evil is present.

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In Candide, evil and corruption are everywhere and are exaggerated by Voltaire to prove that philosophical optimism is not a viable position.

As Candide and his tutor, Pangloss, travel Europe and South America, they witness and even sometimes experience countless examples of evil behavior. For example, soon after being kicked out (literally) of the baron's castle, Candide witnesses a battle between two countries that results in utter destruction and brutal violence, including rape. Pangloss still explains what Candide sees as how the world should be and reasserts that we live in the "best of all possible worlds," despite what the reader understands is quite the contrary. During the Lisbon Earthquake, Candide and Pangloss meet a good, ethical man named James the Anabaptist. Meanwhile, a "villain" is committing all sorts of crimes and sins and almost falls to his death. James saves his life, but then James dies as a result, and the corrupt sailor survives and goes on to rape more women. This is clearly an example of evil "winning," but Pangloss continues to repeat his optimistic philosophy.

As they continue to travel the world, Candide finds only El Dorado as a respite from evil and corruption. In other places, most people he meets, including religious clergy, are hypocritical and immoral. The philosopher Martin, who serves as a foil to Pangloss, argues that human nature is inherently evil, and based on what we see in Candide, it's hard to disagree.

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Candide depicts evil as an ever-present force in human history and in an individual lifetime. After being kicked off the property of Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, Candide travels far and wide, encountering the evils of war, violence, cruelty and human suffering. Candide eventually rejects the notion that God created the earth as the best of all possible worlds. He rejects the idea that "everything happens for a reason." In "Candide," Voltaire depicts evil as meaningless but ubiquitous. While he doesn't address the origin of evil (or the question of why God allows/creates evil), he does address the importance of dealing with personal tragedies in ways that maintain dignity and hope.
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