Religion has been a staple of human society since the dawn of recorded history and probably traces back even further. All religions found in history have one common theme between them besides their belief in a supreme power. Each religion helps explain what man cannot. Since Emperor Constantine changed the Roman Empire to Christianity, the faith has dominated western civilization. Voltaire, one of the most prominent philosophers of the Enlightenment, deals with the principles of Christianity in the book, Candide. Through an allegory of the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, Voltaire questions the struggles of men on Earth.
Voltaires main character, Candide, is somewhat of a simple man living a happy life in the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. Voltaire chooses the name Candide, a French adjective rooted in the Latin word candidus or white, for this character to show that he is an innocent person with good intentions. He lives here with the Baron because he is the illegitimate son of the Barons sister who was unwilling to marry his father since he was poor. Voltaire has Candide born out of wedlock, a sin according to Christian principles, to prove that he is born into sin. Candide is raised in the castle along with the Barons son and daughter, Cunegonde, and the three of them are taught by Pangloss.
Pangloss teaches a philosophy known as optimism to the three children. Optimism believes that this is the best of all possible worlds and all events on Earth are due to cause and effect. The philosophy also holds that every event is necessary for one reason or another. Panglosss teachings are representative of the Christian religion. According to the word of God, every man who believes in him and asks for forgiveness of his sins receives eternal life, the best possible world. Unfortunately, due to the sins of Adam and Eve, man must live life on Earth before he can reach the perfection of Heaven, and the trials of life on Earth, brought on by the Devil, are meant to test mans faith in God.
In the Book of Job, Job is a man raised on strong Christian principles. He believes strongly in the word of God and practices all of the duties set forth by God for man on Earth to follow to gain his favor. Job lives before the crucifixion of Christ that promises forgiveness for all sins but he is the closest man alive to following the will of a vengeful God. Both Job and Candide follow their philosophies strictly while everything remains good in their lives.
Candide finds his world crashing around him after he is caught by the Baron kissing Cunegonde, and he is flogged and banished from the castle. Shortly after his departure, Bulgarian armies find him and, as Voltaire describes, he is forced to run the gauntlet thirty-six times and actually endured two floggings. The regiment was composed of two thousand men. That made four thousand strokes, which lay open every muscle and nerve from his nape to his butt. Eventually the King of Bulgaria saves him, and he escapes to find Pangloss, now a beggar. Pangloss tells of the destruction of the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh and the apparent death of the family.
Although devastated by the loss of his love Cunegonde, Candide manages to keep his belief in optimism. Pangloss aides his belief by stating that he has caught a venereal disease that can be traced back to the Americas, but he believes that it is okay due to his belief in optimism. He explains to Candide,
. . . its an indispensable part of the best of worlds a necessary ingredient; if Columbus in an island of America had not caught the disease, which poisons the source of generation, and often indeed prevents generation, we should not have chocolate and cochineal.
Job also manages to keep his beliefs through his first trials of faith. After Satan challenges God that Job cannot keep his strong faith if he did not have his magnificent success, God tells Satan, Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Satan preys on every one of Jobs livestock, as well as his children, killing them all. Job responds by kneeling in prayer before the Lord upon hearing the awful news. He prays, Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.
Voltaire continues his allegory of the Book of Job when he sends Candide and Pangloss to Lisbon. In Lisbon is where Candide, like Job, begins to lose faith. Job loses his faith after God gives the Devil permission to hurt, but not kill, him so that Job can continue to prove his undying devotion to God. The Devil afflicts Job with sores from head to toe, and his wife begins to question the purpose of Gods punishments. Job, still managing to keep his faith, scorns his wife, claiming, You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble. His faith disappears over the next week, though, as he continues to endure the pain and suffering. While sitting among his three close friends, Job finally speaks for the first time in a week and regrets the day of his birth.
May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, A boy is born! That day – may it turn to darkness; may God never care about it; may no light shine upon it . . .. May those who curse days curse that day.
Candides next trial of faith involves more than personal affliction. He arrives in Lisbon to experience an earthquake that kills thirty thousand people of the city. Soon after Pangloss and Candide are arrested as heretics and brought for punishment in an auto-da-fe because it was decided by the university of Coimbre that the sight of several persons being slowly burned in great ceremony is an infallible secret for preventing earthquakes. Candides crime is small so he only receives another flogging, but the Spanish Inquisition had found Pangloss guilty of heresy. After his beating, Candide is forced to watch Pangloss hanged. At this point, begins to question Panglosss teachings. He asks himself, If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?
Voltaire ends his allegory to the Book of Job at this point in the story. Instead Voltaire chooses to give Candide a different ending which questions the accuracy of a dependency on faith. In the Book of Job, three of Jobs friends try to convince him to not be dismayed in the Lord due to the curses that have been stricken upon him because He is the only man who can rid Job of his problems. Job questions his friends by saying, Indeed this is true, but how can a man be righteous before God? He explains that there is nothing more that he can do to gain Gods praises and eventually convinces his friends that he is right.
Finally Elijah, a young man who has listened to the argument, steps in and speaks on the Lords behalf. He explains to Job that no man can claim that there is nothing else he can do to praise God because that is a sin. Elijah also tells Job that demanding to speak with the Lord and receive explanation for his work is a sin. Elijah concludes by saying,
The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him. For does he not have regard for all the wise in heart.
Elijah is complemented by the Lord speaking to Job from above. The Lord asks Job to repent his sins, and he does by answering,
I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, Who is this that obscured my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
The Lord forgives Job and his three friends that did not continue to attempt to help Job make peace with the Lord. God also chose to repay Job for all that he had lost and suffered through by making him more wealthy than before and helping him to create a new family. He also let Job enjoy this good life for another 140 years.
The Book of Job concludes with faith in God prevailing over everything else. Voltaire takes a different approach to the end of Candide. Voltaire allows Candide to regain some of his faith by having Cunegonde, whom he thought was dead, return into his life with an old woman. She tells him her story of despair and Candide kills her two other suitors to regain her completely. The group escapes Spain, and the old woman tells the story of her life to Candide, which not only contradicts his faith in optimism but also mocks the rules of the Catholic church, part of the Christian faith that optimism is a symbol of.
Candides faith takes another blow when he is forced to flee Buenos Aires and leave Cunegonde behind. Things get worse for Candide who runs into Cunegondes brother and is forced to kill him after he flies into a rage when Candide mentions his plan to marry Cunegonde. After avoiding another near death situation, Candide and his newest companion, Cacambo, arrive in the magnificent country of Eldorado. Voltaire hints through two comments by Candide that Eldorado may actually be the only country where faith in optimism is justifiable. Candide says, In spite of what Dr. Pangloss said, I often noticed that everything went very ill in Westphalia. He also remarks, If our friend Pangloss had seen Eldorado, he would not have said that the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh was the best of all that exists on earth; certainly a man should travel. Both of these comments show that Candide can believe in optimism here. Voltaire may also be hinting through symbolism that this is the only country where Christianity is done right. Eldorado is symbolic of the state of Pennsylvania, which Voltaire respected for its way of government and religion.
Upon leaving Eldorado in search of Cunegonde, Candide meets an aging philosopher named Martin who helps him distrust Panglosss theory of optimism. After trips to France and England, Candide and Martin reach Venice where they meet Paquette, the maid that gave Pangloss a venereal disease, and Friar Giroflee. The two prove to Candide that most everyone is miserable. He finally travels to Turkey and meets the Barons son and Pangloss while traveling the Black Sea. The group continues on and eventually finds Cunegonde and the old woman, but Cunegonde is now ugly.
While in Turkey, the group debates the theory of optimism, and Pangloss admits he never believed in it and was always miserable. The group discusses different theories before realizing the only thing to get one through life is working to avoid thinking about other things. The group all works together on a farm and each finds a niche to fill. They all enjoy themselves through hard work and find life less miserable. Pangloss makes one last attempt to convince Candide about the theory of optimism by saying,
All events are linked together in the best of possible worlds; for, after all, if you had not been driven from a fine castle for being kicked in the backside for love of Miss Cunegonde, if you hadnt been sent before the Inquisition, if you hadnt traveled across America on foot, if you hadnt given a good sword thrust to the Baron, if you hadnt lost all of your sheep from the good land of Eldorado, you wouldnt be sitting here eating candied citron and pistachios.
Candide replies to the theory of optimism by commenting, That is very well put but we must cultivate our garden.
Voltaire tries to make clear through his ending that while God may exist and have a plan for everyone, as seen in the Book of Job and Candides acceptance of Panglosss last shot at optimism, hard work is more important to success on Earth than anything else. Voltaire shows in the book that if Candide had stopped searching as hard as he did for Cunegonde and had placed all of his faith in God to work things out, nothing would have happened. Voltaire is unwilling to place religion as the key to success on Earth and therefore has Candide determine that hard work, represented symbolically by cultivating ones garden, is the first priority in life.
Voltaire starts Candide with an allegory of the Book of Job to lay the context for a symbolic representation of his beliefs on Christianity as it existed in the world during his life. Voltaire altered the ending from the of Jobs conclusion to show that hard work, not religious perfection was the key to success in Europe, but he also hinted that Christianity in America may finally have a good balance between faith in God and a successful society on Earth.