In Candide, François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) humorously criticizes power, love, wealth philosophy, education, religion as well as optimism. Throughout this book, Candide does several things the wrong way, which the author uses to exaggeratedly elucidate the inhumanities of man in a humorous way. This paper seeks to discuss the role of humor as presented in Voltaire’s book, Candide, which is a humorous satire criticizing the aforementioned phenomena in the society in which he lived. The use of humor in this book assisted the author to reach his audience and reduced the amount of criticism for his book, considering that he expressed his ideas and feelings hidden in humor. If he had not interspersed his novel with humor, the criticism would be too bitter.
The use of humor in this book resembles coating of a bitter pill with a sweet coating in order to make it easy to swallow. Several comic elements in the novel depict humor. The characterization, style, and structure assisted Voltaire in expressing his humorous, yet bitter feelings and criticism. He gives funny names to the characters according to the situations they are subjected to them as well as their behavior. In the humor of the characterization in this book, the author ensures that his characters unwittingly express the things they would wish to hide. For instance, the Baron’s son is unable to hide his homosexual tendencies, Cunegonde does not conceal her sensuality, and even though talk shows that he is wrong, Pangloss does not admit it.
On optimism, Voltaire uses the characters such as Pangloss and Candide to depict the imperfect nature of the world. In this novel Candide and the teacher maintain that, “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire, p. 137). According to some philosophical thinkers like Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, the existence of evil on earth depict that God might not exist or that he could not be all-powerful. Voltaire humorously takes Pangloss and Candide through a series of sufferings and experiences such as robberies, rapes, diseases, an earthquake, unjust execution, and betrayals, which later change their view on optimism. One of the humorous quotes that Pangloss makes in this novels is when he says that syphilis needed to be transmitted from the Americas to Europe so that Europeans could enjoy New World delicacies such as chocolate (Voltaire, p. 247).
Voltaire’s novel uses humor to criticize several injustices in his society such as religion, philosophy, the power and discomfort of money, and philosophy. Maybe he feared giving the society the realities in a bold manner and decided to hide his criticism in humor, or he deliberately chose to make the novel interesting by using this style. However, the novel explains the societal injustices that Voltaire intended to address.
Voltaire. Candide and Other Tales: ISBN 1406790249, 9781406790245. City of Westminster, London: Penguin Books, 2007. Print.