by Voltaire
In "Candide", Voltaire uses many writing techniques which
can also be found in the works of Cervantes, Alighieri,
Rabelais and Moliere. The use of the various styles and
conventions shows that, despite the passage of centuries
and the language differences, certain writing techniques
will always be effective.
One common literary technique is the author's use of one or
more of his characters as his 'voice' to speak out the
authors views on a certain subject. For instance, in
Moliere's Tartuffe, the author uses the character of
Cleante to speak out against religious hypocrites (page
1419, lines 99-102):
Nothing that I more cherish and admire
 Than honest zeal and true religious fire.
 So there is nothing that I find more base
 Than specious piety's dishonest face.
In Candide, Voltaire makes use of several characters to
voice his opinion mocking philosophical optimism. On page
1594, Candide is asking a gentleman about whether
everything is for the best in the physical world as well as
the moral universe. The man replies:
...I believe nothing of the sort. I find that everything
goes wrong in our world; that nobody knows his place in
society or his duty, what he's doing or what he ought to be
doing, and that outside of mealtimes...the rest of the day
is spent in useless quarrels...-it's one unending warfare.
By having this character take on such a pessimistic tone,
he directly contradicts the obviously over-optimistic tone
of Candide. In the conclusion (page 1617) an old turk
instructs Candide in the futility of needless
philosophizing by saying that "...the work keeps us from
three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty." In each of
these examples, the character chosen by the author comes
across as a reasonable and respectable person, making the
author's point of view seem just as reasonable and

Another technique Voltaire uses in Candide is that of
taking actual people and events and weaving them into his
work of fiction. He often does this to mock or ridicule his
political and literary adversaries, as shown in the
conversation between the abbe' and the Parisian supper
guests (page 1593). The abbe' mentions two critics who in
Voltaire's time have criticized his work. The critics are
referred to as boring and impudent by the supper guests. In
much the same manner Alighieri, in The Divine Comedy, has
placed many of his enemies in various circles of Hell. In
one instance (page 797), Dante himself pushes one of his
political enemies back down into the swampy waters of the
river Styx. In Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais mentions
a series of text books which are a part of the sort of
educational curriculum that he is satirizing. He ridicules
their use in that it takes Gargantua so long to learn
simple tasks such as memorizing the alphabet. In each of
these cases, the authors are able to speak out against
people or practices in a way less confrontational than
public speaking, as well as state their opinion in a form
where they cannot be immediately contradicted. 

Voltaire has occasion to use the comedic style of
exaggeration in Candide, such as the Baron's sister
refusing to marry Candide's father because he can only
prove seventy-one quarterings of his family tree. Later,
Candide is sentenced to receive a flogging for having
deserted the Bulgar army. He must make thirty-six passes
through the gauntlet of two thousand troops. More
outlandish examples of exaggeration can be found in
Gargantua and Pantagruel, such as the size of Gargantua's
mare (as big as six elephants) or the weight of his
dumbbells (each one is eight hundred and five tons). Beside
being entertaining to read, these exaggerations serve to
point out the ridiculousness of an ideal by showing it in a
preposterous light.
The format in which Candide is written closely resembles
that of Cervante's Don Quixote. In both books, the authors
have chosen to name each chapter in a descriptive style;
the name of the chapter tends to be a brief description of
the action that is to take place within it. Compare chapter
three of Don Quixote, "Of the amusing manner in which Don
Quixote had himself dubbed a knight." with chapter three of
Candide, "How Candide Escaped from the Bulgars, and What
Became of Him". Alighieri uses this method in The Divine
Comedy as well, although on a much less descriptive level.
Each of the cantos in his Divine Comedy has short three or
four word descriptions of what happens in the canto. Many
chapters in Candide end with some sort of lead-in to the
next chapter, giving the book a certain feel similar to
today's television serials. This method is used in Don
Quixote (chapter 8), but in a much more dramatic fashion.
Just as Don Quixote is about to go into battle with the
Biscayan, the action is abruptly halted by the narrator who
describes how the 'original' author had not finished the
story, but that a 'second' author had picked up where the
first left off and the action continues in the next
chapter. While Cervantes may have been poking fun at this
method by useing it in such an exaggerated manner, both he
and Voltaire use it effectively to keep the reader's
attention and make him want to read on to find out what
happens next. 

In Candide, the story is written such that the main
character and usually one or more companions have set out
on a great journey filled with adventures. It is in this
journey that Candide's outlook on life is challenged; he is
forced to become less optimistic about this world being the
best of all possible worlds. Similarly, in The Divine
Comedy, Dante goes on a journey as well; through Hell,
Purgatory and Heaven with his guide Virgil. Through his
travels he is shown the error of other men's ways, serving
to remind him of his own sins and to put him back on the
right path in life. In Don Quixote, the would-be
knight-errant sets out with his sidekick Sancho Panza on an
adventure too; determined to right wrongs and save damsels
in distress. Through the harsh realities of life he
eventually comes out of his insanity and sees that his way
of life in his modern world is outdated and obsolete. 

In placing their characters in these adventures the authors
demonstrate that, through experience with real-world
situations, these men trying to live by some outdated or
far-fetched ideal soon learn the error in their reasoning
and adapt themselves to the author's way of thinking. 

From these examples it can be seen how Voltaire, a writer
from the Enlightenment period, uses methods from writers
centuries before him to effectively communicate his point
to his contemporary readers. The times and issues may be
quite different, but the writing style works just as well
for him as it did all the way back to the twelfth century.


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