Voltaire’s Candide is a satire of life before and during the enlightenment period, a black comedy, this story often makes light of religious purgings, executions, the church in general, royalty, government, nobility, ideals of love, war and the country of France. About the only things not mocked are the ideals of true happiness and paradise. The institution of family is mocked when Candide and Cunigonde are caught making-out by her father the king and is banished from his home.
Later in the story, Cunigonde’s brother fights Candide because he is unworthy to marry his “sister, who has seventy-two quarterlings! ” (361). Candide’s responce is “she has many obligations to me, she wants to marry me”(361). The reason for the brothers’ anger is that Candide can not trace his lineage. For some reason this was important to the nobility of the time so they could in effect “stay in the family” and keep there line pure. Unfortunatly that inbreeding resulted in birth defects and sickness later in life. I guess the moral is not to date your friends sister.
After arriving in Venice, Martin and Candide are eating supper in their hotel with six men who claim to be ex-kings. Each of the kings have been dethroned by war, family or chance, and some have been in prison. Its ironic that all these men are sitting, having dinner together, it shows that even the kings of the world are human and can be hit by hard times. Theodore of Corsica mentions, “I used to coin currency, and now i dont have a cent”(393). Voltaire pokes fun at the royals here while most writers would have shown various kings in a flatoring way.
In chapters 2 and 3, the wars of the time are somewhat serious to those involved. Early on, the Bulgar army takes pity on Candide and recrutes him. The recutement practices of the day were far more impressive than todays “signing on the dotted line”. Having “irons on his legs” does not sound like it is as motivating as our Army’s “be all that you can be”(339). The battle between the Bulgars and the Abares seems to have been a horrible one indeed. With casualties that “well amount to thirty thousand men or so”, this part is an obvious exageration(340).
Phrases such as “heroic butchery” and “the bayonet was reason for the demise” contribute to the over all feeling of numbness to violence. The most blatently satiristic scene of the whole story is the infamous Auto-da-fe’ in Lisbon. I think its fitting that Voltaire says they ” give the people a fine auto-de-fe’ “(345). I wonder who’s faith was being tested; the person being roasted over a slow fire or the officers of the inquisition? Those accused “listened to a very touching sermon…. and were flogged in cadence to the music”(346).
According the authers tone, everyone there must have had a wonderful time! From marrage to earthquakes, life seems to be very monotoned in Voltaires’ obscure view of life in these times. No one was safe from caos. And those most deserving punishment go free. Satire is a weapon of the writer used to inform his readers of how sick the world really is, and for them not to believe the lies told to them on a daily basis. Sometimes it is neccessary to step back and see what is going on around you, if only to laugh, but more importantly to stay alive.