Candide: In the Best of all Possible Worlds

I plan to do my final paper on the novel Candide written by Voltaire. I chose to do this because I have always wanted the opportunity to re-read the novel. I also really enjoy the many themes of the story and the symbolism of the garden.

My paper will be based around one of the books motifs, “All is for the best… in the best of all worlds”. My goal would be to examine what is the best of all possible worlds.  To do this I will have to define what the best of all possible worlds is and in addition consider opposing viewpoints. I hope to also tie this into the overall theme of alienation, and argue that it is better to have company so that one does not feel alienated from the rest of society. I plan to structure my paper in parallel to the traveling Candide does within the novel and incorporate the lesson learned at each place of visit.

Other aspects that I wish to explore include philosophical optimism which was popular at the time of the book’s writing of the Enlightenment period as well as other actual historical accounts Voltaire refers to. An important theme throughout the novel is anti-religion which I believe also needs to be addressed in my paper. I would like to end my paper with Voltaire’s garden and the symbolism behind it offering some kind of solution that involves happiness and simplicity.

1.How does one know once they have reached the goal of being in the best of all possible worlds?

2. How does companionship affect life satisfaction?

3.How do the ideas of the time such as philosophical optimism and anti-religion affect the context of the novel?

One thing I am not sure is if I am planning to cover too many topics and perhaps a narrower and more direct approach would be better? Any advice would be appreciated!

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Candide: In the Best of all Possible Worlds

  1. smboehm

    Although I haven’t read Candide, it sounds like you have a lot to work with in exploring the topic. My advice would be to pick one thing that you can say is a part of “the best of all worlds” and relate that back to how you need it to not be alienated in society.

    1) What are these things that can be considered “the best of all worlds”? Is there anything that people can come together to agree upon being “the best”?

  2. vrosengrant20

    I do agree that you may need to focus on a more specific topic so that you can still keep to your structure of following Candide to each place that he visits. I am not too familiar with the story but I do think you might want to keep your question about companionship so that you can also refer to the theme of the course about isolation and alienation. You can expand more of that premise with a question like:
    5.) How does Candide’s connection to his companions change his perspective and himself?

  3. siegvald

    Perhaps you could expand fully on only one or two points alone? For example, you could develop a whole paper on how companionship affects life satisfaction–whether it’s better to go through life alone or with somebody. You could also tie it in to the religion factor, for example monks who live their whole lives in isolation as opposed to people who stay married all their lives and die together. Who has lived happier? Who has found “the best?”

  4. siegvald

    Edit: point 6

  5. stperry1

    It probably is necessary to narrow the scope of the essay in order to make sure you have a clear point to defend, however, it sounds like a very interesting paper. Its an original idea, and it will be interesting to see how you take a completely separate book and connect it to the theme of alienation we have been covering. I would focus on:
    7) Who decides what is ultimately best in the world? What makes one place better than another?

  6. Samantha Cooke

    I think you’re definitely looking at too much for your paper. Longer papers have been written simply on what form of economy is the best (and one aspect of Candide was the critique of materialism and the capitalistic aim to accrue wealth). Perhaps you might want to focus less on the hypothetical ideal world and more on what the book suggests, and critique that, though that may in fact be too much to focus on (maybe narrow it to relationships to friends, lovers, society in general). So look at your #1 and #2 with “in relation to the tale” affixed to the end.
    Unless I misunderstood your objective.
    8. What does Candide’s quest for love and its result say about love?

  7. Your have good ideas but I am worried that you are addressing too many topics. You may just want to pick one topic. Also, make sure that you speak to Thomas to make sure that he accepts your topic since it is not based on any of the books we’ve read in class. I have not read this book so my question may not be relevant.
    9.What are the pros and cons in Candide’s society of being alone and of having companionship?

  8. aeernst

    I think that your topic will be interesting no matter how broad or narrow your scope is, but for your sake I also recommend narrowing it down so you’re not so overwhelmed with the amount of information you have. I agree that it might be best for you to focus on how companionship affects life satisfaction and how that becomes the “best of all worlds”. Hopefully this helps! Another question you could ask is:
    10) What happens once you have found “the best”?

  9. autumncassidy

    My main question is in regards to how you will be defining “the best of all possible worlds”? After reading /Candide/, I was left with the impression that it was a satirical irony focusing on the precedent through the many travesties and obstacles encountered by Candide, that “the best of all possible worlds” is one that cannot be encountered. I will be curious to see how you are able to address that issue. Is this in reference to the character of Candide’s search or a personal one?

    I would also recommend that you narrow your topic; as it seems like an excellent and provoking topic, but with so much ground to cover, would it be too much to fit into this paper?

  10. looloo14

    I have never read Voltaire but I’m sure you cant make a great essay out analyzing one of his novels. Going of the quote, “All is for the best… in the best of all worlds,” my question is
    12. Is this the best of all worlds or the least horrible?

  11. I’m not familiar with the novel, but I think if you’re feeling confident, it would be interesting on examining what this best world could be. Question 1 seems to be the most interesting, but also the most difficult to tackle.

    13. If there is such an uncertainty of this best world even existing, why expend so much effort to find it?

  12. Sophi

    I have not read the story, but I think that a great deal of your paper may have to do with defining the “best world” and relating this to direct scenarios in which Candide addressed his desire to be there for reasons A, B, and C reasons. Because of this, it may be better to narrow your topic down to a couple main points and address those in-depth to avoid mentioning an abundance of new ideas but exploring very few.
    A question that may help you in your planning could be:
    14.) Does the time and place in which this story was written play a huge role in the context of the story? If so, what do the occurrences of the time and place have to say about what the “best world” consists of?

  13. Your topic is a challenging one and it is also on a novel I have never heard of. The quote you provided which it centers around is one that makes you think. By explaining this in your paper will help you bring forth a good argument. I like your ideas/strategies. My question I have is:
    15.) Does this novel have any type of similarity to any of the texts we’ve read this semester? If so, which one(s)?

  14. ashleighbarraca

    I agree with everyone that narrowing your scope would probably help you out a lot. It’s been a few years since I’ve read the novel, but from what I remember it’s VERY rich in symbolism and satire, so you will definitely have a lot to work with. One question that I think could be interesting to incorporate is: 16) Could Candide be written today? That is, are the themes and issues presented in the novel still relevant?

  15. I love your topic! I am somewhat familiar with “Candide”, but I am more familiar with the operetta that was inspired by this work. 🙂
    This is a pretty broad topic, and I would like to see you more define what “the best of all possible worlds” is, and who exactly defines it.

    17) How does the reading and applying of “Candide” to modern times compare to when it was written? Could the ideas in “Candide” easily have been written in more modern times?

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