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Satire in the Eighteenth Century

Satire in the Eighteenth Century

New ideas, original thoughts, and fresh interpretations characterized the spirit of the eighteenth century. Science was flourishing, and therefore it brought new discoveries that challenged the traditional dominating force of religion. Influential figures of the age, such as Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, and William Hogarth, strove to assure human betterment and advance human thinking through truth and humorous criticism. They employed the use of satire in order to accomplish their common goal.

According to A Handbook of Literary Terms, satire is defined as “a work or manner that blends a censorious attitude with humor or wit for improving human institutions or humanity” (Harmon and Holman 461). The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics further asserts that satire is “both a mode of discourse or vision that asserts polemical or critical outlook, and also a specific literary genre, embodying that mode in either prose or verse” (Preminger and Brogan 1114). In essence, satire emerges as a device to successfully diagnose human faults and offer a cure for society.

Satire often includes abuse, sarcasm, irony, mockery, exaggeration, and understatements. Arguably Voltaire’s most famous work, Candide presents a string of characters laced in exaggeration. For example, the Baron’s lady was not only a large presence, but she weighed a striking three hundred and fifty pounds. Furthermore, the Baron’s castle was considered a monument of prestige, “for his house had a door and several windows and his hall was actually draped in tapestry” (Voltaire 19). It is apparent that the use of the hyperbole, among other elements, played a crucial role in the potency of satir…

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…rs and improves judgment: he that rectifies the public taste is a public benefactor” (Preminger and Brogan 1115). The eighteenth century was a time of transformation, in which society was in constant evolution. The progress of the age was delivered to the common person’s doorstep through literature and art and reached the common person’s understanding through satire. Hence, satire was both a furious weapon and a common medium that was utilized by the thinkers of the eighteenth century to promote the Enlightenment.

Works Cited

“Art of William Hogarth”. 7 July 2000.

Harmon, William and C. Hugh Holman. A Handbook of Literary Terms. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, ed. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.

“Swift Biography”. 8 July 2000.

A Freudian Analysis of Voltaire’s Candide

A Freudian Analysis of Voltaire’s Candide

In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud refers to the important role that love plays in the world of Man. Love certainly plays an important role in Voltaire’s Candide; throughout Candide’s journeys, a constant factor is his love for Lady Cunegonde and his desire to be with her.

Freud writes “the way of life which makes love the centre of everything […] comes naturally to all of us,” (Freud, p. 29). Candide’s love for Cunegonde is the driving force of his life from the moment they are parted at the beginning of the novel until they are bonded in marriage at the end. Throughout his experiences, Candide continues to think about Cunegonde. Even after narrowly surviving the Bulgar-Abar war, Candide’s thoughts are still about Cunegonde (Voltaire, p. 26).

“We are never so helplessly unhappy as when we have lost our love object,” (Freud, p. 29). Man is never more vulnerable as when the person he has chosen as the object of his love is taken from him. When Candide is at Eldorado, where no-one goes hungry or has any needs which go unfulfilled, he tells his companion Cacambo, “‘I shall never be happy without Lady Cunegonde,'” (Voltaire, p. 82). Candide found, it would seem, the one place on Earth where there is no suffering from poverty, war, or injustice. He and Cacambo could have lived long and fulfilling lives in Eldorado, but Candide insists on returning to his beloved Cunegonde.

When Candide and Cunegonde are at last reunited, Cunegonde asks Candide “[what] has happened to you since that innocent kiss you gave me?” (Voltaire, p. 40). The kiss, which Cunegonde describes as innocent, cost Candide dearly; her brother the Baron “drove Candide from the house w…

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…is largely responsible for our misery and we should be much happier if we gave it up and returned to primitive conditions,” (Freud, p. 33). Candide realizes at the end of the novel that the formula for being content is simple: “We must go and work in the garden,” (Voltaire, p. 144). When Man does not have to fight the rules of civilization, his life is a much simpler lot.

Many of the points which Sigmund Freud makes in Civilization and its Discontents can be paralleled to the experiences of Candide in Voltaire’s Candide. These points can also be linked with the society Man lives in today. Candide is clearly a member of Man’s society and is subject to all the needs and desires described by Freud.

Works Cited

Sigmund Freud. Civilization_and_its_Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton and Company; 1961.

Voltaire. Candide. London: Penguin Books; 1947.

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