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Candide Literary Criticism

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Both Voltaire’s satiric novel Candide and Frederick Douglass’s autobiographical Narrative shows the life of two men. Each young man experiences injustices in the course of his development. Candide faces his struggles by seeking material gain. Douglass faces his by discovering and applying his inner strength to find reliable sources to aid him in his journey. The result of Candide’s journey through life is unsatisfactory and unfulfilling while Douglass achieves self-actualization and continues to help others by fighting to right injustices. In his quest to become a free man Douglass is self -reliant, resourceful and focused while Candide in his quest to marry his love Cunegonde is naïve, greedy, and selfish.

The strong traits of Douglass’s character allow for a successful and fulfilling life while the weak traits of Candide’s character lead to disappointment. Both Candide and Douglass lived during a time when it was hard to seek freedom. Because of this, each one of them developed differently over time and also lived their lives with different purposes. We know that Candide spent most of his days seeking lost love, while Fredericks main focus was seeking freedom from the bondage of slavery. This does not mean that one’s life is more meaningful than the next, just shows that each man’s development led them different places in life. Each one of them achieved exactly what they wanted. Each narrative came from two different types of genre of literature. One fiction and the other non-fiction, but they both developed statements in regard to societal issues. In Candide, satire is used throughout the story, which is a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society, by using humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule. This technique, presented a critique of the hypocrisy of the Enlightenment Age. On the contrary, Douglass’s work presents the slavery era through an autobiography.

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In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass writes about what he went through as a slave and what it took to gain freedom. The way Frederick Douglass describes the brutality of the slave owners made the book difficult to read, but overall the book was very fascinating and enlightening. Growing up, students rarely learn the full extent to how bad slavery is. Many high school textbooks say nothing about the amount of assault and savagery slaves are put through. Frederick Douglass puts into perspective just how horrible conditions were for him and the slaves he encountered. In the first chapter, he talks about how cruel his first slave owner was and how badly his owner whipped his aunt. Later in the book, when Douglass finally realized he wanted to be free, he tried to fight one of his slave masters. I believe this to be my favorite part of the book. It shows how strong Douglass was even after everything he had gone through. My second favorite part was when he, a slave, married Helen Pits, a white woman. At the time, interracial marriage was extremely illegal. For Douglass and Murray to find individuals to be witnesses to their marriage is amazing. One thing I disliked about Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was that Frederick Douglass didn’t talk about himself very much; he only briefly touched on his experiences. There were hardly any mentions of his major accomplishments. and he hardly ever gave his opinion or expressed how he felt about his situation. I would have liked him to have extended his narrative to include more details after his escapes slavery. Fredrick Douglass believed that was freedom to him was legal Freedom and Personal Freedom. Legal freedom is that the government can give out freedom yet take it away. Personal freedom means its freedom that determines how you live, and how your life is controlled. He learns about education, self-reflection, self-realization. Fredrick uses these things teach these to other people.

Candide by Voltaire tells the story of a young man named Candide who can simply not find his way out of trouble but no matter the circumstance, he is in the best of all possible worlds. Someone who helped Candide along his way was his love, Cunegonde. Throughout the story, Cunegonde proved herself to be loyal, preoccupied, and impressionable. Candide, believes that this world is “the best of all possible worlds”. He comes to this understanding through his mentor Pangloss, and his ignorance in the world, from growing up very sheltered, allows him to truly believe it. Within the story, Candide is constantly faced with extreme adversity, but he always maintains his belief in “the best of all possible worlds”. Candide tries to push this belief onto others by giving them money. In his mind, giving strangers money will help them get out of bad situations, and in turn, they might start to also believe in “the best of all possible worlds”. However, what Candide doesn’t realize, is that this might not be helping anybody at all, in fact, it could be hurting people. He thinks that money can solve all problems; this is probably due to the fact that he grew up wealthy and had a very good life, up until he lost all of his money, at which point, is life started to go downhill. Candide’s only way of coping with the adversities in his life was to stay optimistic and try not to think about anything to deeply.

Each young man experiences injustices, sorrow, agony, and pain in the course of his development. Candide faces his struggles by seeking material gain. Douglass faces his by discovering and applying his inner strength to find reliable sources to aid him in his journey. Each character encountered many trials and triumphs on their quest to find what they were looking for. Candide in search of love, money, and power, and Douglass on his quest for freedom. Each man developing differently throughout the stories while serving purposes that are very much so different. Candide reflected on how power was distributed in Europe and how nobility formed and eventually controlled the masses and Frederick’s narrative was all about never having power and fighting through oppression. There was adventure along the way and knowledge and happiness are the virtues significant to Candide and Frederick Douglas. The result of Candide’s journey through life is unacceptable and unrewarding while Douglass achieves self-actualization and continues to help others by fighting to right injustices. In his quest to become a free man Douglass is self -reliant, resourceful and focused while Candide in his quest to marry his love Cunegonde is naive, greedy, and selfish. The strong traits of Douglass’s character allow for a successful and fulfilling life while the weak traits of Candide’s character lead to disappointment.

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Candide Literary Criticism. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/candide-literary-criticism/
“Candide Literary Criticism.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/candide-literary-criticism/
Candide Literary Criticism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/candide-literary-criticism/> [Accessed 5 Feb. 2023].
Candide Literary Criticism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2023 Feb 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/candide-literary-criticism/
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