During the 18
century, many European countries began to witness a vast revolution.
This was no bloody uprising, though. Instead this transformation of the arts, sciences,
philosophies, and politics of Western Europe, known as the Age of Enlightenment, peacefully
changed the way much of the world viewed society and life in general. Much like the
Renaissance several centuries before, this movement ousted the antiquated values and beliefs, or
“Old Order,” which oppressed large portions of society while ushering in a progressive era
distinguished by reason and freedom. Monarchs would no longer hold absolute rule through
divine right. Longstanding scientific and philosophical beliefs were argued and challenged,
frequently giving way to innovative advancements in areas like physics, astronomy, and politics
among many others. All together, the Enlightenment paved the way for advances that are still
evident in society today.
This extraordinary makeover can be largely attributed to radical thinkers such as John
Locke, Isaac Newton, and Rousseau. Voltaire, a philosophe and writer from the birthplace of the
Enlightenment, France, also played a major role. He was well known for his unyielding
disapproval of the Old Order. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in his most famous work,
Candide. This novella is as much an attack on the “Old Order” of pre-Enlightenment Europe as
the Inquisition was on heretics, albeit through a significantly less brutal medium. Throughout the
book Voltaire depicts a melancholy, and often cruel, view of life in the West while the
establishment of the Old Order rules over the continent. His account of a young German named
Candide born into a family of barons almost overflows with devastating tales and clever
colloquies featuring Candide and his companions. In his satirical style, Voltaire criticizes the
ways of the Old Order and embellishes the story with Enlightenment principles.
Voltaire introduces the initial characters in no less of a satirical style than the rest of the