The Sources of Evil and Human Misfortune in Voltaire’s Candide

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Analysis The Sources of Evil and Human Misfortune in Voltaire’s Candide

In Candide, as in other Voltaire`s novels, the main theme is not the private life of the heroes, but the criticism of social orders, the evil satire of the church, the court, the royal power, feudal wars, etc. The classic definition of the novel as an epos of private life has no connection with Voltaire`s prose because its content is not about the destiny of a person, but it rather deals with the philosophical idea in relation to the world as a whole. However, the wide panorama of reality unfolded in the novel absolutely contradicts the philosophy of optimism (Voltaire 34-56). The pre-established harmony consists of fires of the Inquisition, thirty thousand victims of the Lisbon disaster and three hundred thousand people that were killed during the Seven Years’ War, slavery and cruel exploitation of Afro-Americans, along with violence, deception, and robbery. While describing all these evils, misfortunes, and sufferings, Voltaire’s comic tone persists, as the bearers of evil are ridiculous, being puppets, but the social forces behind them are not ridiculous, but terrible.

The source of evil is not nature, but human abuse of one’s own abilities, which leads to chaos in the form of evil and misfortune. The nature is not the force of evil, as it is not bad by its meaning. Moreover, the word garden in the vision of Candide becomes the symbol of life, and can be understood as the good nature, and without human intervention it cannot become an evil. The world is unreasonable, with evil reigning in it, but it can and should become reasonable. As a result, people have to work hard to achieve this, and put some effort to attain the positive results. If the humans do everything that they can, they will get a reward, which is the paradise on Earth. However, it can only be built with human hands, and no other way is possible (Voltaire 67-86). The Dervish, who is the best philosopher of Turkey, is right saying that the world has not been created by God according to the measure of man. Consequently, man has to conquer everything himself. He should create “the second nature” that corresponds to the human mind by working hard, as this is the meaning of progress, and the task of the future.

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Philosophers argue, and the evil triumphs, while Candide seeks an answer to the question “what to do”, and “how to eradicate evil”, as it is everywhere. Dervish tried to persuade the hero to calm down and not to let the hero interfere. Although, Candide was sure that something ought to be done with this as reasoning without any help could do nothing with the evil and misfortune. The Dervish denies neither the wisdom of the world nor the presence of evil in it. Nevertheless, he is convinced that evil exists only in relation to man, and God does not care that much for the fate of man, as the sultan does not care about the fate of ship-borne rats (Voltaire 78-110). The evil is inevitable, since it is inherent in the very nature of things, and is present in the man as well. The man is the reason of the evil and misfortune, and nature has no relation to this, as it was created unspoiled, so that only human can commit the acts of violence and do not care about anything except their own interests. The abuse of one’s own abilities and the negative thoughts could be the cause of evil on the Earth.

The Vision of Utopia in Bellamy’s Looking Backward

Judging from its plot, the novel is a typical utopia. In 1887, young Boston rentier Julian West turned to a hypnotist to get rid of insomnia (caused by strikes in public enterprises). Falling asleep, he recovered after a long lethargic sleep in 2000. It was strange that instead of West’s house there was the house of Dr. Leete, who became the guide of the main hero in the socialistic Boston. It turns out that in the twentieth century, the entire US economy became a single super-corporation, which may also be called an industrial army. Everything necessary to earn money is available, including housing, above the subsistence minimum, while hard and dangerous work is paid, as well as creative activity that takes people out of the limits of industrial production. A considerable part of the book is devoted to the dialogues between West and Dr. Leete about the essence of the new society. Looking Backward by Bellamy was written under the influence of the direct removal of those extreme stressful and rapid shifts that were taking place at that time, and many people of that period thought that this book was the representation of the best practical solution to pressing issues. By the mid-1880s, capitalism had made tremendous progress in all developed countries, and the battle with the working class, which it had spawned, had gone quite far.

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Despite being written in the form of a fantastic novel, Looking Backward represents the most serious attempt to predict the next stage of the industrial and social development of mankind, based on the principles of evolution. At the beginning of the book, Bellamy explains what he understands under the principles of evolution. In Bellamy`s utopia socialism is inevitably associated with a mechanical bias, the absolute equation in everything, almost the military discipline of laborers, the bureaucratic organization, the severity of life, and the value attributed to mechanical inventions that were created for their own sake (Ballamy 18-56). According to Bellamy, in the year 2000 everyone would live like the wealthy circles of the middle bourgeoisie in Boston in 1886.

Generally, the ideas from Looking Backward can also be witnessed nowadays in the form of consumer society, the power of large corporations, as well as the global supermarket. But as long as the freedom from work promoted by Bellamy is possible to be seen, this prophecy of the American socialist is likely to come true in several decades with almost continuous usage of robots in production (including office). Aspects of the political and social structure of the country of the future in the novel-utopia by Bellamy are included in books whose rhetoric facilitates the formulation of desperate views of Julian West through a holistic image of an ideal life (Ballamy 45-87). The immutability of rhetoric, as well as the mechanism of its impact on the consciousness and livelihood of man and society is successively revealed in the artistic world of the novel Looking Backward. In this novel, the problem of the whole world organization is solved by means of a futuristic shift of time without outlining the contrasts from rhetorical effect.

Utopian vision of Bellamy is a strange combination of socialism and capitalism, a pretext that capitalist monopolies are so broadened that one company ultimately rules the whole country (depending on what is happening). Everyone is part of an extensive industrial army and has an equal share in the products (Ballamy 103-110). There is no money, and instead of using it each citizen is given the same amount of credit that they can use to buy everything they choose. What makes Looking Backward different from other utopian visions is Bellamy’s interaction with one fatal flaw, inevitable in many other utopias, which is based on the idea that, although people can change the society, they cannot change the nature of a person who will inevitably destroy a utopia or make it inaccessible.

Gender Inequality in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland

The main theme in Herland refers to gender aspects, such as the role that is unchanged for both genders, as well as how this role is built upon the social principle. The idea of gender determination begins when men first meet with Herland`s women. In comparison with women from their world, men consider Herland’s women to have masculine physical features, such as lack of curves, and functional, short hair (Gilman 45-67). Women are originally strong, demonstrating their physical abilities by building huge buildings in their country. Along with women with masculine features, as perceived by the outside world, Jeff, one of the main characters of the book, is to some extent feminine, despite the fact that he is a man. Jeff has serious conflict of interest with the men, who are traveling with him to Herland. Jeff’s feelings reflect the feelings of Herland’s women, not men. At same time, Van, the other main character, feels that Jeff betrayed him by his emotional reactions and signs of agreement paralleled with women.

Herland explores the differences between matriarchy and patriarchy, emphasizing the need for a balanced and incompetent race and, at the same time, gender indicators. The social construction of sexuality is ingrained in American culture as well as the other world cultures, and the expectations about what is male and female vary globally, but the differences between the genders are pervasive everywhere. There is no Other in the nation of Herland. In the feministic utopian novel Herland Gilman tries to show a portrait of the society of all women. This novel demonstrates a society in which there are no men, and it even makes it indicative (Gilman 78-93). The women of Herland constantly challenge the expected norms of women’s behavior both in the United States of today and the turn of the century. The women depicted in the novel are naturally strong physically, while their manner of dressing is based on comfort and functionality, they have short hair, and they are all highly educated and have specialized workplaces in the society. At the same time, their self-esteem does not depend on the attitude of men, and they are setting and maintaining boundaries.

The world created in this novel seems unattainable and irreproachable, but, at the same time, it seems more like a fantasy than a science fiction. The scientific explanations are not always appropriate to describe the events that are the reason of such a state of society. Illustration of an ideal society by Gilman depicts the feminists of the end of the century (Gilman 48-69). The first wave of feminism consisted of women who were fortunate enough to get an education. At that time, sociologically, they were mostly white, young women from progressive and wealthy families. The novel reflects the demography, which does not care about the plight of the minority of women. On the island nation, the Aryan race, which was spread across the South American hemisphere, seems implausible (Gilman 90-123). The satirical way, which the narrator uses in the description of the women, is burdened with a financial need, ironically juxtaposed with the real racism of Gilman. From the point of view of the modern reader, the irony consists in the fact that while femininity is revealed as a social construct, the consequences of the racial discrimination are established from the perspective of Gilman’s modernity.

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Gilman’s image of female sexuality is a fully constructed concept designed to satisfy readers. Their attention is focused on motherhood, which is historically regarded as the antithesis of sexuality. They have not really much interest in any sexual relations with anybody (Gilman 100-120). When this novel was published in 1915, homosexuality was actually a rare phenomenon. The romantic, but at the same time only heterosexual love is demonstrated as the only plausible form, however, desexualized women still continue to reject it. In fact, the social relations between Herland’s female citizens are also left unexplored.

Winston’s Belief in the Proles as a Liberating Force

George Orwell’s novel, 1984 describes the absurd, but at the same time, real and understandable totalitarian time, the time of the dictatorship of the Big Brother and the party, the time of flourishing crime, as well as the time when history is rewritten without any second thought, and a person is completely controlled by a system that traps them in the mud. One of the motives of the novel is that if the proles were organized, they could arrange a rebellion and build a better world. The main character Winston Smith wrote in his diary that if there was hope, then it was in the proles. The revolutionary stimulus Emmanuel Goldstein (in the societies of the three countries, between which the whole world is divided, and there is no real opposition force) also allegedly came to the same conclusion (Orwell 12-45). However, O’Brien persuaded Winston that the proles would never rise up to rebellion, as in his opinion they were too stupid and underdeveloped for this. In addition, the party controls everything, and potentially destroys dangerous proles.

The party leaders do not perceive the proles as people, but rather consider them to be only dumb masses, swirling around in public backyards, which is about eighty-five percent of the population. They do not live, but exist in poverty and spiritual wretchedness. Dumbfounded by propaganda, they do not think about anything. It is considered undesirable when proles have some interest in politics (Orwell 34-55). They only need primitive patriotism so as to remember about it when it comes to extending the working day or reducing rations. But if there is hope, it is in the proles, and Winston Smith was sure that it was true and even wrote that in his diary.

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Orwell’s proles are free, and their freedom is limited only by themselves. The culture they consume could be called the mass, while the interests that they have could be called primitive, and the support that they give to the authorities might be called patriotic. Orwell’s proles are typical consumers, who employ a huge industry that is designed not to keep the proles in fear, but on the contrary to create adequate living conditions for them (Orwell 68-75). The party controls only its members, only the top of society, but at the same time the numerous members of lower classes are left on their own, being free in their permissiveness. They are not interested in politics, and therefore they are not likely to start a rebellion.

The theme of sympathy to the proles, hopes for them and despair of the groundlessness of this hope is the main theme in Winston`s life, when he stepped on the path of opposing the party. It is interesting that by brutally suppressing the intelligentsia or the external party, the party gives the freedom to proles, the majority of the population. However, this is possible only if the proles are satisfied with life and feel happy, so the author gives a possibility for maneuvering human nature in regard to proles (Orwell 87-99). This kind of proletariat is the working class, which accounts for 85% of the population. The protagonist perceives the proles as a key to getting rid of a totalitarian society. The life of these people is mostly not monitored, unlike the members of the party. They are not banned from the usual pre-revolutionary behavior, and even prostitution is permitted and increasing (Orwell 100-119). The proles comprise many elderly people who have seen other times. Nevertheless, symbolic is the scene in the bar, where Winston cannot get anything from the elderly man. They seem to speak in two different languages and any useful conversation does not come out. The author speaks about the working class as the brute force of any revolution.

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