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candide rough

candide rough - El dorado in Candide How an Imaginary...

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2/20/08 El dorado in Candide: How an Imaginary Paradise Mobilized an Attack Against Optimism The function of El Dorado, the fictional utopia in Voltaire's Candide , is to provide a contrast to the cultures Candide, the protagonist of the novel, encounters throughout his misadventures in Europe and the Americas, and the cultures discussed but not visited--the Middle East and Indochina. This contrast emphasizes the absurd infirmities the world suffers in the religious, social and governmental spheres, and thereby serves to satirize Leibnizian optimism, which is arguably Voltaire's primary purpose in Candide . Our world is not the best of all possible worlds, Voltaire argues, because if it were, it would resemble El Dorado more than it currently does. El Dorado is the living evidence against Pangloss, a two-dimensional, caricaturized Leibnizian philosopher. Voltaire does not--and indeed does not need to--argue that El Dorado is the best of all possible worlds. El Dorado is, however, better than the real world. And if one can show that a better world is possible, then our world can not be the best of all possible worlds and Voltaire's case is proven. Candide's stay in El Dorado is brief--just long enough for him to learn about their ideal society, religion and government. These are also, conveniently enough, Voltaire's primary areas of criticism throughout the rest of the novel. In each case, a direct comparison of El Dorado to other cultures reveals Voltaire's social criticism, and the holes in Leibnizian logic. The perfect, simple social order of El Dorado, informed by the inhabitants' moral values, provides the antithesis of every other society Candide visits, and, through its perfection, acts as Voltaire's device for underscoring the faults of real societies and reducing Leibnizian optimism to absurdity. When Candide is arrested in Paris, apparently without reason, his Perigordian abbe explains that Parisian police arrest all foreigners because a man from Atrebatum once attempted to kill the king after listening "to foolish talk" (77). Candide replies, "Such horrors in a nation that dances and sings! Can I not depart at once out of this country where monkeys incite tigers? I have seen bears in my own country; I have seen men only in El Dorado" (77). Candide's reception as a foreigner in El Dorado, however, begins with an exotic meal, provided by an inn- keeper who tells him and Cacambo, "We can easily see that you are foreigners; we are not accustomed to see any. Pardon us if we began to laugh when you offered us in payment the pebbles of our highroads. No doubt you have none of this country's money, but it is not necessary to have any in order to dine here" (54).
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