Candide is a controversial French satire about a young man Candide who believes that he lives in the best world in the universe despite his challenges. Influenced by real historical events, the themes in the story resonate with a contemporary audience today. Pangloss, the castle’s tutor, and Candide believe that the world they are living in is the best world there is just like many people want to believe in contemporary society. Moreover, Candide falls in love with the baron’s daughter, Cunégonde. Their relationship shows the challenges prevailing in most relationships affecting a modern audience. The theme of the corrupting power of money also affects contemporary society through the vices of bribery and theft. This paper discusses the themes of love and sex, the folly of optimism and the corrupting power of money and how they resonate with today’s contemporary audience.
Love and sex are notable topics in Candide’s literature text which resonate with a contemporary audience. During his journey, the love for Cunégonde keeps Candide motivated to persevere the challenges he encounters and goes to great lengths to survive including committing murders (Michta 45). Love drives people to do unthinkable things such as killing in the contemporary society. Besides, rape and disembowelment make Cunégonde unattractive to Candide. Similarly, today’s audience would agree that such misfortunes make women unattractive to men. The incidences captured under the theme of love and sex in Candide describe the issues people in contemporary society go through in their relationships.
Furthermore, the folly of optimism is another theme significantly evident in the text. Candide and his tutor Pangloss hold that “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds (Michta 41). However, the challenges they face contradict the idea that the world is perfect. Similarly, contemporary society faces challenges such as wars between nations. Also, the world faces other calamities such as earthquakes which destroy property (Drozdowicz 10). Therefore, the contemporary audience would resonate with Voltaire that the optimism for a perfect world is misplaced.
Moreover, the corrupting power of money is also another theme depicted in the literature. Candide’s fortune in Eldorado gives him confidence since he feels he can no longer get arrested or executed for his crimes as long as he is wealthy (Sherman 233). However, Candide is unhappy since his wealth goes to the pockets of corrupt administration officials. His wealth corrupts the minds of his friends driving them to their misery. Money illusions are also a common occurrence in contemporary society as the wealthy individual bribe their way through offenses and use their financial status to seek privileges. However, wealth does not entirely solve an individual’s problems. In this regard, money corrupts the minds of people leading them into bribery and theft society. Therefore, today’s contemporary audience would resonate with the theme since the corrupting power of money is common in the community.
In summary, Candide’s experience in the world reflects the themes of love, optimism and the corrupting power of money which are all evident in modern society. Candide and Pangloss believe that the world is perfect. Candide goes to the extent of committing murders to win back his lover, Cunégonde. However, the author shows the imperfectness of society through the challenges Candide faces during his journey. Besides, Candide’s money makes him live an unhappy life because of corruption in the world. The themes discussed affect the society, and thus a contemporary audience would resonate with them.
Drozdowicz, Zbigniew. “Voltaire’s Radicalism.” Diametros 40 (2014): 5-21. https://www.diametros.iphils.uj.edu.pl/index.php/diametros/article/download/627/730/
Michta, Kamil. “The Gardening Fallacy: JM Coetzee’s Michael K as a Parody of Voltaire’s Candide.” Anglica. An International Journal of English Studies 23/1 (2014): 41-50. http://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/element/bwmeta1.element.desklight-b5614580-5418-48e2-9f1b-aac4469de5a0/c/Anglica_23-1_KMichta_41-50.pdf
Sherman, Carol. Reading Voltaire’s contest: semiotics of philosophical narration. The University of North Carolina Press, 2018, pp. 233-248.