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Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for Candide by Voltaire that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Candide and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for Candide by Voltaire offer a short summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Candide at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Candide in the Context of the Enlightenment
Being on of the leading philosophers of the Enlightenment period, Voltaire was doubtlessly well-versed about new and growing perceptions in his world. With this in mind, one might expect that this novel would reflect a number of ideals about freedom and individuality and while it does, especially in terms of its criticism of corruption in the church and other institutions of power, there are also several aspects that can be considered “unenlightened." For example, despite the fact that the Enlightenment stressed the importance of individual freedoms and natural rights, women are often subjugated. Furthermore, many other ideals of the Enlightenment are poked fun at, most notably the sense that philosophy in itself can be the cure for all the worlds ills. For this essay, consider the ways in which Voltaire either subverts or openly mocks some of the core ideas of the Enlightenment. (Note: If you are comparing another work to Candide, another good option would be Guliver’s Travels or A Modest Proposal because of similar time period, use of satire and irony.)
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 Irony in Candide
Much of the humor behind this novel lies in its use of irony which is employed to point out many of the flaws in philosophy as well as the dangers and pitfalls of being an optimist. Irony is used on many levels throughout the book, from overt examples such as Pangloss and his unending optimism and adherence to his silly saying despite the fact that he has been followed by one disaster after another to more covert examples such as the age-old paradigm of the beautiful desired woman turning ugly when the lover at long last has her. The irony contained in this novel is not present for the sake of mere humor; it serves to illustrate some of the themes about the problems in optimist philosophy among other matters. For this essay, find three or four examples of irony and devote a paragraph to each, pulling them all together in your conclusion.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 Representations of Women in Candide
Throughout Voltaire’s Candide women are often presented as being victims and are often suffering because of acts of cruelty and violence. In many senses, this does not allow them to be fully developed characters, particularly when contrasted to the males in the novel. From Cunegonde to the old woman, to the told experiences of other women in the text, the reader cannot help but to pick up on the theme of misogyny and it is worth questioning both why Candide might have chosen to present women in this manner and what this means in the context of philosophy (especiallyEnlightenment philosophy as seen in Candide) which seeks to free people rather than keep in subservient roles. For this essay, examine the women presented in the novel and discuss how they are not developed as characters and do not serve any purpose but to be either romantic interests or the unfortunate victims of violence—sexual or otherwise
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Representation of Organized Religion in Candide
Aside from attacking some popular movements in his contemporary philosophy, one of the biggest targets of criticism in Candide is the Church (in this case the Catholic Church). By creating characters who are corrupt and greedy, Voltaire exposes the hypocrisy of religion and debunks its status as holy or in any way sacred. For this essay, you can examples of hypocritical characters such as the Inquisitor who has a lover and the Friar who steals jewels among others. In addition to merely discussing these examples, you’ll also want to look at the ways the church and church officials are threatened by philosophy—a good example would be when the Inquisitor punishes Voltaire for even hearing something contrary to church doctrine or teachings. Out of the five essay topics / thesis statements listed here this will be your best bet for a long essay as there is plenty of material to work from that can be easily supported by textual evidence
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 : The Presence of Evil in Candide / Character Development
Despite the constant soothing words offered by Pangloss, Candide eventually begins to see through his teacher’s flawed (and overly optimistic) reasoning and begins to see the world for what it really is. Throughout most of the novel he blissfully skates through as he is confronted with war, illness, madness, and general malaise without thinking too much about it. Because of his capacity to think he is living the best of all worlds, this philosophical groundwork begins to crumble slowly and it is only at this point that Candide becomes a truly developed character. In order to develop, a character must change the way he sees his world. For this essay you can argue either way; you can say that Candide did eventually develop and become a rounded (as opposed to flat) character or that he never did—that he simply moved from one optimistic way of living to another.
(If you are still looking for more insights about Candide, particularly in terms of how the work relates to the ideas of the Enlightenment,
This list of important quotations from Candide by Voltaire will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Candide listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of Candide they are referring to.
(Pangloss to Candide) “Private misfortunes contribute to the general good, so that the more private misfortunes there are, the more we find that all is well" (31).
Candide’s thought that “The passion for maintaining that all is right when all goes wrong" (86).
“Lisbon harbor had been created expressly so that the Anabaptist would be drowned in it (12).
“It appears, sir, that you do not believe in original sin; for if all is for the best, there can be no such thing as the fall of man and eternal punishment" (35).
“It is impossible for things not the be where they are, because everything is for the best" (35).
(Cunegonde) “I had an excellent seat and delicious refreshments were served to the ladies between Mass and the execution" (42).
“The Cardinal was buried in a beautiful Church and Issachar was thrown on to the dung pile" (46).
(Pangloss and his V.D. from religious authorities) “received this present from a very learned Franciscian monk, who owed it to a marquise, who caught it from a Jesuit" (48).
“Ask each passenger to tell you his story and if you find a single one who hasn’t often cursed hs life you can throw me over board head first (49).
Candide to Martin: “At least you must admit that these people are happy. Until now, I have not found in the whole inhabited earth…anything but miserable people. But this girl and this monk, I’d be willing to bet, are very happy creatures" (58).
(The King of Eldorado) “We have so far been sheltered from the greed of European nations who have an irrational lust for the pebbles and dirt found in our soil and would kill every man to get hold of them" (79).