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Summary:The Failure of Optimism in Candide
The essay reveals that the ideologies of optimism are clearlyunrealistic and nothing like that exists. In fact, it will show howPangloss persuaded Candide into believing that life is guided by theoptimistic factors. In this case, the ideologies are contrasted withthe experiences that Cunegonde and Paquette undergo in the story.From the beginning of the story, the readers meet a Cunegonde that isan innocent daughter of a rich Baron while Paquette is their maid.Later, her father’s castle is attacked, and Cunegonde and Paquettemanage to escape as the others are killed. From that point, they headout to the streets where they try to survive on their own. Morespecifically, Voltaire reveals how the two women use their sexualappeal to survive by pleasing the men in their lives (Kjorholt, 67).The scenario is in contrast to the optimistic beliefs that assert onlife being a fairytale that people often dream about. However, theexperience that the two ladies encounter goes against the sameideologies and it shows that life is full of challenges and they willhave to create ways that will help them survive. Unfortunately, thewomen no longer have time for the comfort and luxury that they wereused to while they were still in the castle. The attack has exposedthem to multiple challenges, and they have understood that life is ajourney that has the best and the worst experiences. The women keeppushing on even things seem to work against them.
More importantly, Voltaire later empowers the ladies and reveals howthey are able to find an alternative way to sustain them in the harshenvironment. In this case, it was difficult to settle in thesurrounding and a society that had clearly undermined the position inthe society. For instance, the men looked at them as the sexualobjects that did not have any chance of making a better life out oftheir suffering (Voltaire, 72). In fact, Cunegonde and Paquette areeven forced to use their sexual appeal to find the financial supportthat keeps them going. Cunegonde is forced to seduce the high andpowerful men that assist her in exchange for the sexual favors. Onthe other hand, Paquette also uses the same approach to survive inthe harsh society that no longer supports them as they had expected.However, the women still find a position in Candide’s improvisedvillage that he created. The village that Candide has built is basedon the ideologies of optimism, and he believes that regardless of thechallenges people will still find a solution in the end. Hence, heknows that even the challenges that the ladies have experienced donot change their fate that is still bright. For instance, Voltaireempowers Cunegonde who is able to create pastry and cook somedelicious dishes while Paquette can work on the embroidery in clothes(Voltaire, 93). More specifically, the scenario shows how they haveabandoned the practice of using their sexual appeal to please menthat support them to relying on their efforts. Candide believes thatthe women still have an opportunity to have a good life in theimprovised village or garden that he had created. All in all, itillustrates the way that the women were able to turn around theirstruggles however, it is clear that life is no longer a fairy taleand they have to undergo the multiple challenges that life presents.
Kjorholt, Ingvild Hagen. "Cosmopolitans, Slaves, and the GlobalMarket in Voltaire`s Candide, ou l`optimisme."Eighteenth-Century Fiction 25.1 (2012): 61-84.
Voltaire, Francois.Candide, or optimism. London: Penguin UK, 2013.