Santa Monica College Candide Novel Discussion

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Now that you’ve read the novella Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire, I’m most interested in how you think the book’s ironic and satirical examination of human nature still resonates today.

To that end, for your final project, I’m asking you to write a thesis-driven, well-supported essay (approx. 1,000 words) in MLA format (double-spaced) based on one of the prompts below.

The essay should reflect your own opinions, observations, and arguments and be well-supported by specific quotes and examples (cited) from the novella Candide and from contemporary sources.


READ these CAREFULLY before starting:

Greed for wealth and status: Choose a specific contemporary figure who, in your view, is hungry for wealth and clout, and throughout your essay, compare them to specific scenes and/or individuals in Candide as a way to demonstrate that Voltaire’s ironic commentary on such people is still relevant today.

Absurd logic / philosophy: Choose a current conspiracy theory or outrageous philosophy and examine how its believers exhibit the kind of flawed logic demonstrated in the novella Candide (in particular, by Pangloss), and comment on the connections.

Satiric commentary on religion: While examining Voltaire’s critique of religious institutions, beliefs and hypocrisy in Candide, connect his satiric views to specific current examples, and share your views on these parallels.

Status of women: In Candide, Voltaire uses pathos and irony to depict, and implicitly critique, the conditions experienced by women in the book – Cunégonde, the Old Woman, Pacquette. Write an essay that links the way women are depicted in the novella, their persistence as well as their suffering, with the experiences of a specific contemporary woman (or specifically defined group of women), and comment on these similarities.

Political power: In the novella, Voltaire often highlights the absurdities of those who hold political power or authority. Choose a contemporary political or other authority figure, and examine them through the lens of specific scenes, figures, and examples from Candide, and share your views on these comparisons/connections.

Class or social inequality: Consider Voltaire’s depiction of those in lower social positions, and how they suffer at the hands of those who are more powerful or wealthy. Using specific examples, scenes, and individuals from Candide, examine and compare them to contemporary social power imbalances, focusing on a specific marginalized group today.

The key support for your thesis and supporting claims will come in (all) three forms:

Direct quotes and other specific evidence from Candide;

Direct quotes and other specific examples from current media;

Your own commentary, insights, observations about these connections.

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