What is the central message Voltaire is conveying in Candide?

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The central message Voltaire conveys in Candide is that all is not for "the best in the best of all possible worlds." The book satirizes and debunks that philosophy, which had gained traction in the mid-eighteenth century (when Voltaire wrote this work). Voltaire shows that world is a miserable, corrupt place for the people who actually encounter it and don't simply read about it safely from afar. Candide gets caught up in a series of horrible adventures that are so over-the-top terrible they become laugh-out-loud funny. To some extent, a reader doesn't know whether to laugh or cry: for example, when Candide's beloved, Cunégonde, explains, matter-of-factly, that it is possible to survive rape and disembowelment, as she has done.

Voltaire shows that the people who are supposed to make the world a better place, such as the clergy, participate in spreading the misery: Cunégonde is shared as a prostitute, for example, between a Jewish merchant and a Grand Inquisitor (Catholic priest).

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