An Examination of Human Nature in Candide 11th Grade

“Men,” said he “must, in some things, have deviated from their original innocence; for they were not born wolves, and yet they worry one another like those beasts of prey. God never gave them twenty– four pounders nor bayonets, and yet they have made cannon and bayonets to destroy one another" (10). Thus begins the philosophy in Candide by Voltaire- a subversive text published in 1759 for which the author was imprisoned at Basille. While there is some hope for the human race in Candide, the superficiality of love and the cruelty of human nature are revealed through depictions of material beauty, wealth, and violence to the effect of devaluing philosophical optimism.

Candide is ultimately pessimistic in its depiction of human nature, but the text’s defense of free will, as well as the fact that it is a satire, offer a more optimistic outlook. The idea that Voltaire’s criticism might inspire action in its readers implies the belief that humans can make the right choices; the satire is encouraging people to change the world themselves instead of blaming war and violence on predestination and religion. There is also a favorable view of humans in the resilience of the characters throughout the text, including the old woman, who...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1721 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 10780 literature essays, 2703 sample college application essays, 653 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in