Voltaire's Use of Satire in Candide

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 546 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 546|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Religious Satire
  2. Philosophical Satire
  3. Social Satire
  4. Conclusion

Voltaire's novel, Candide, is a classic example of satire. Through the use of wit, humor, and irony, Voltaire challenges the prevailing ideas of his time and criticizes the societal norms and institutions of the 18th century. This essay will explore how Voltaire uses satire in Candide to comment on various aspects of society, including religion, philosophy, and the concept of optimism.

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Religious Satire

One of the main targets of Voltaire's satire in Candide is organized religion. Throughout the novel, Voltaire criticizes the hypocrisy, greed, and corruption of religious institutions. The character of Pangloss, the philosopher who subscribes to the idea of "the best of all possible worlds," represents the blind faith and naivety of religious believers. Despite experiencing numerous tragedies and hardships, Pangloss continues to cling to his belief that everything happens for the best. This serves as a critique of the religious doctrine that preaches blind optimism in the face of suffering and injustice.

Furthermore, Voltaire uses the character of the Grand Inquisitor to highlight the oppressive and tyrannical nature of religious authorities. The Grand Inquisitor's brutal methods of torture and execution are depicted in a satirical manner, ridiculing the absurdity of religious persecution and intolerance.

Philosophical Satire

In addition to targeting religion, Voltaire's satire in Candide also takes aim at the prevailing philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment era. Through the character of Pangloss, Voltaire mocks the overly optimistic and idealistic views of philosophers such as Leibniz. Pangloss's relentless optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary serves as a critique of the Enlightenment belief in the perfectibility of human nature and the existence of a harmonious and rational world.

Voltaire also uses the character of Martin, a cynical and pessimistic philosopher, to satirize the philosophical notion of rationality and reason as the solution to all of humanity's problems. Martin's nihilistic outlook on life challenges the Enlightenment belief in the power of human reason and progress, highlighting the limitations and failures of philosophical optimism.

Social Satire

Voltaire's satire in Candide extends to the broader social and political issues of his time. The novel provides scathing commentary on the injustices and inequalities that were prevalent in 18th-century society. Through the various misfortunes that befall the characters, Voltaire exposes the arbitrary nature of social hierarchies and the absurdity of the class system.

Furthermore, Voltaire's portrayal of the New World, particularly the El Dorado episode, serves as a critique of European colonialism and imperialism. The utopian society of El Dorado, with its abundance and equality, stands in stark contrast to the greed, exploitation, and violence of European colonization. This serves as a satirical commentary on the hypocrisy and brutality of European powers in their pursuit of wealth and power.

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In conclusion, Voltaire's use of satire in Candide is a powerful tool for critiquing the prevailing ideas and institutions of his time. Through the use of humor, irony, and wit, Voltaire challenges the religious, philosophical, and social norms of the 18th century. By exposing the hypocrisy, greed, and irrationality of these institutions, Voltaire encourages readers to question and challenge the status quo. Candide remains a timeless work of satire that continues to resonate with audiences, prompting reflection and critical analysis of the world around us.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Voltaire’s Use of Satire in Candide. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Voltaire’s Use of Satire in Candide.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Voltaire’s Use of Satire in Candide. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Voltaire’s Use of Satire in Candide [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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