Irony, Contradiction, and Voltaire's Garden: Re-Reading Candide

Main Article Content

Sydney Madison Adams


Literary scholars have long debated the thematic significance of Voltaire's Candide, a 1759 novella that relentlessly satirizes Gottfried Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism. In Candide, Voltaire assails his readers with displays of violence so absurd they might inspire anything from laughter to hopelessness. The novella's crude humor is hinged upon an unexpectedly-compassionate acknowledgement of human suffering. Voltaire uses Candide's plotline to attack the human assumption that any force of good will ever offset the evil in a world pervaded by cruelty and selfishness. He provokes questions with no answers in sight. Deriving a theme from the novella only becomes more difficult after reading its conclusion, which leaves readers dissatisfied, desperate for some sort of call to action. We are urged to cultivate our garden but given no advice on what that might entail. We are convinced of Leibnizian optimism's failures but deprived of a more-pragmatic philosophy to replace it with. In this essay, I analyze the ways Voltaire uses humor, irony, and structure in Candide not only to denounce deceitful forms of optimism, but to provoke future thought on the questions he could not answer himself.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Adams, S. M. (2019). Irony, Contradiction, and Voltaire’s Garden: Re-Reading Candide. IU Journal of Undergraduate Research, 5(1), 8–11.