What are six examples of verbal irony in Candide?

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Verbal irony is when dialogue (or sometimes narration) appears to say one thing on the surface but really means something else entirely. It is often sarcastic and used for satirical purposes, which is certainly the case in Voltaire's Candide.

"It is demonstrable," said he, "that things cannot be...

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otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten, therefore we eat pork all the year round: and they, who assert that everything is right, do not express themselves correctly; they should say that everything is best."

This passage from the beginning chapter of Candide spells out the optimist philosophy plainly. Pangloss is saying things like legs were designed for stockings, not the other way around, which comes off as silly. Therefore, Voltaire is mocking the optimistic philosophy, making it appear simple-minded and so specific in the banality of its observations as to be hilarious.

Never was anything so gallant, so well accoutred, so brilliant, and so finely disposed as the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made such harmony as never was heard in hell itself. The entertainment began by a discharge of cannon, which, in the twinkling of an eye, laid flat about 6,000 men on each side. The musket bullets swept away, out of the best of all possible worlds, nine or ten thousand scoundrels that infested its surface. The bayonet was next the sufficient reason of the deaths of several thousands. The whole might amount to thirty thousand souls. Candide trembled like a philosopher, and concealed himself as well as he could during this heroic butchery.

The narrator describes the battle in heroic, shining terms, and this contrasts with the brutality on display. Once again, the optimistic philosophy is mocked, since such widespread violence is hard to square with goodness.

Oh my dear Pangloss! my beloved master! thou greatest of philosophers! that ever I should live to see thee hanged, without knowing for what!

Candide brings up this lament when Pangloss is killed by hanging at the auto-da-fé. What is ironic about this lament is that Pangloss is decidedly not a great philosopher by Voltaire's standards. His optimistic philosophy is presented as naive at best and dangerous at worst. Candide's not understanding why Pangloss needed to die in the great scheme of things shows a hole in the optimist philosophy, which cannot accommodate the idea that bad things can happen for no greater good.

At length to turn aside the scourge of earthquakes, and to intimidate Don Issachar, my lord inquisitor was pleased to celebrate an auto-da-fé. He did me the honor to invite me to the ceremony. I had a very good seat; and refreshments of all kinds were offered the ladies between mass and the execution.

These lines are from Cunegonde when she tells Candide of her trials in chapter 7. Her description of the auto-da-fé is packed with irony because of how casually she describes it, mentioning having an ideal seat to see the executions or pointing out how there were refreshments offered. That the auto-da-fé follows the holy ritual of the Catholic mass only serves to highlight the hypocrisy of the religious institutions in charge of the executions and tortures, but Cunegonde herself does not seem to note this when discussing the matter.

“I will not suffer,” said the Baron, “such meanness on her part, and such insolence on yours; I will never be reproached with this scandalous thing; my sister’s children would never be able to enter the church in Germany. No; my sister shall only marry a baron of the empire.”

Cunegonde's brother the Baron says this when Candide decides to marry Cunegonde toward the end of the novel. The irony here comes from Cunegonde's decreased desirability (her experiences have made her ugly and bitter) and the Baron's continued snobbery.

There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.

Pangloss says this near the conclusion of the story, when Candide famously suggests they cultivate their garden. Pangloss's philosophy has not changed from the first chapter, as he continues to go by his silly optimistic perspective. He says that all the horrible events that transpired in the novel, such as rape and torture, were worth it to enjoy eating nuts in their little garden.

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What are examples of irony in Candide?

Candide and Cundegonde's relationship is packed with irony. For one, they start out as idealistic lovers who are hopelessly devoted to one another. Candide goes on a quest to reunite with Cundegonde, holding her in his mind as a symbol of purity and goodness. Even in the utopian world of El Dorado, he is unhappy without her beside him.

However, when Candide finally has the chance to marry Cunegonde at the end of the novel, she has been forced to become the mistress of several men, has lost her beauty, and had become a more irritable person after all the horrible things she has been through. She is unable to remain an ideal because she has seen too much cruelty in the real world outside her privileged sphere.

The irony comes from the way the "love conquers all" ending is subverted: Candide marries the girl of his dreams, but she is no longer who she was at the beginning of the story. Cunegonde's development also satirizes Candide's optimism, showing how things aren't turning out as wonderfully as he thought they would. His disillusionment with his love parallels his disillusionment with the philosophy of optimism.

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What are some examples of the different kinds of irony in Candide?

As one observes with Candide, irony is a weapon in Voltaire's hands. He uses it to attack the irrationalities and abuses of the world.

Possibly one of the most striking examples of situational irony in Candide lies in the character of Pangloss, introduced as Candide's teacher and described as "the oracle of the family." With his role and reputation, one might think him wise or knowledgeable, but when we actually hear what he teaches, we find that it's all nonsense. Consider his words from Candide's opening chapter:

He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

"It is demonstrable," said he, "that things cannot be otherwise than as they are . . . Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings—and we have stockings."

The nonsense goes on; it's all meaningless and banal. Note that the characters themselves continue to treat Pangloss as a font of wisdom and knowledge—as the greatest philosopher of his age—adding a further touch of dramatic irony to this situation. They believe in his reputation for wisdom, even as the audience knows him for the fool he is. Moreover, as if this alone weren't enough, Pangloss's advice can be actively destructiv. For example, in chapter 5, Pangloss actively convinces Candide not to rescue the Anabaptist (who had previously aided them) from drowning, trying to rationally demonstrate that the Anabaptist is meant to die and that it is best that Candide not intervene to save him.

Voltaire makes effective use of verbal irony as well. His narrator can be deeply sarcastic. In Candide's third chapter, the narrator describes in gruesome detail the devastation unleashed by war, with the intense and monstrous suffering involved, but he accompanies this grisly scene with exalted language, opening the chapter with the telling line, "there was never anything so gallant, so spruce, so brilliant, and so well disposed as in the two armies." In these ironic tensions between what the narrator tells us and what he shows us, we find a powerful indictment of warfare and the suffering it causes.

As another example of verbal irony, I would point out the title of chapter 6: "How the Portuguese made a Beautiful Auto-da-fé, to prevent any further Earthquakes: and how Candide was publicly whipped." This auto-da-fé is described in the following terms within the text itself: "it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking." As you can imagine, there is nothing beautiful about such a scene, even if Candide's narrator presents it in those terms. Furthermore, in a final touch of situational irony, Voltaire adds that on "the same day the earth sustained a most violent concussion." In other words, this ceremony did not even work.

This answer has only drawn on a few examples and has focused only on Candide's opening chapters. I'd suggest you continue reading to try to find more examples of the various forms of irony.

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