When I first read Candide, nearly two years ago, I treated it like any other student. With indifference and intolerance. Under the instruction of Dr. Jane Edwards, I quickly learned that Candide was a recollection of the injustices of the French Citizens prior to the earthquake that decimated the country. Although Candide is a relatively quick and interesting read, once I realized that the story is an exaggeration of the misfortune of the French citizens, the humor is sucked straight out of the plot. I do have to admit, although the cover consisting of Pangloss' lustful behavior as he jumps an STD-ridden woman is knee-slapping funny, the actual written portion is somewhat dreary. Perhaps it was the way I was instructed, but not even the portion where the elderly woman loses her buttocks fails to rouse a giggle from me. For someone who is easily amused, such as a video of a baby laughing on YouTube, Candide leaves much to be desired.
Besides the fact that the story stems from reality, the underlying tone of Voltaire cannot be ignored. It is malignant, disappointed, and somewhat hostile. Voltaire wrote solely to point out the various misdeeds of the French aristocracy and mock them with such exaggerated scenarios, the books reads more like a CNN review of Bush's time in the presidency than a piece of satire. There have been similar works written with the same incentive. Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" to satirize the British occupation of Ireland. Although his work is rather grotesque, his tone is restrained... nearly indifferent. Which, although the portion about devouring orphans can make anybody queasy, his pragmatic mannerisms and blunt suggestions make the speech a true work of satire. Unlike Candide, where Voltaire is blatantly showing off his immeasurable disgust, it detracts from what could have potentially been the greatest work of all.