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Literary Devices in Candide

Voltaire uses juxtaposition to emphasize his themes. For example, Voltaire juxtaposes Pangloss’s optimistic view of heroic warfare with the gruesome reality of a bloody battlefield. Candide is also a comedic novel that uses dramatic irony and hyperbole to create humor. The tale is one of absurdity and satire, both of which Voltaire uses to critique his society.

Literary Devices Examples in Candide:

Chapter I

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"and believed innocently..."   (Chapter I)

This line should indicate to the reader that there's somethign wrong with Pangloss' philosophy. Though Candide is an innocent, somewhat ignorant character, Voltaire isn't, and uses double-edged phrases like this to suggest that Candide shouldn't believe what Pangloss teaches him.

"how he was a hero..."   (Chapter II)

Note the juxtaposition of "stupefied" and "hero" in this sentence. The military, Voltaire suggests, is full of soldiers just like Candide, "stupefied" youths who don't understand why they're there, let alone the full import of their actions on the national scale. Voltaire, rather than glorify the military, hilariously skewers it in this text.

"The earth was strewed with brains, arms, and legs..."   (Chapter III)

After heaping such hyperbolic praise on the two sides, Voltaire gives us perhaps the most gruesome scene in the entire book, replete with burned corpses and women who've been brutalized. He juxtaposes the glory of warfare as a noble ideal with its violent reality, painting a picture of the battlefield as a place where no thinking person could possibly believe that war was good.

"who owed it to a marchioness who took it from a page..."   (Chapter IV)

A "marchioness" is a noblewoman who ranks above a countess and below a duchess, while a "page" is a young servant who works for a member of a noble house. Notice the way in which Voltaire cavalierly traces the provenance of this STD, ignoring both the social hierarchy and any sense of propriety to reveal just how lascivious the upper classes could be.

"she was infected with them, she is perhaps dead of them..."   (Chapter IV)

His "hell torments" are, in fact, sexually transmitted diseases, which he contracted after having unprotected sex with Paquette, the young servant we saw in Chapter I. Note, however, that there are no known sexual diseases that cause the symptoms Pangloss suffers from, and that it's very unlikely that he would lose his teeth because of it. Here, we can see Voltaire exaggerating the punishment for Pangloss' sins for comedic effect.

"Porto or Opporto..."   (Chapter V)

Porto is a city in northwest Portugal, about three hours north of Lisbon. It's sometimes called "Opporto" because traders who didn't speak Portuguese misinterpreted the phrase "O Porto" (of Porto) as "Opporto," assuming that this was the name of the city. Voltaire uses both to enhance the comedic effect of the Familiar having to call for wine (presumably because he finds Pangloss' argument tiresome).

"The old woman supplies a smelling bottle..."   (Chapter VII)

Recall that Pangloss did much the same thing for Candide when he fainted in the stable upon hearing of Cunegonde's supposed death. Thus Voltaire implies that their tendency to faint is a product of their youth and innocence, which both emphasizes the characteristics that they share and the ways in which they differ from their older, less innocent counterparts.

"on a brocaded sofa..."   (Chapter VII)

Recall that back in Chapter III the Anabaptist James wanted to teach Candide how to make "Persian stuff" or fabrics like brocade. Voltaire uses this word to underscore the relative luxury of the apartment and emphasize the difference between it and Candide's other living situations.

"wished to kiss her hand..."   (Chapter VII)

Recall that Candide was kicked out of the Baron's castle in Chapter I for similarly kissing Cunegonde's hand. Voltaire uses this parallel to show us that Candide hasn't changed and that he's still a very polite, innocent young man. Voltaire also juxtaposes the old woman's hospitality with the orator's cruelty to show that not all believers are hypocritical.

"—pipes..."   (Chapter XI)

Notice this abrupt use of the em-dash mid sentence. Voltaire uses it to indicate that the old woman intended to say something crass but instead chose to use the euphemism of "pipes" to indicate the male sexual organ in consideration of the innocence and youth of her companions.

"Venus of Medici..."   (Chapter XI)

The Venus de Medici, a marble copy of a bronze sculpture created in ancient Greece in the 1st Century BCE. It's currently housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Rome and, though not as famous as the Venus de Milo, is considered to be one of the models of classic Western ideals of beauty. Voltaire makes this comparison to the Venus de Medici in order to evoke sympathy from the reader.

"at Rotterdam..."   (Chapter XII)

Rotterdam is a city in Southern Holland, or the Netherlands. Notice how Voltaire uses this sentence both to establish the passage of time and the old woman's movement from East to West, reversing the trip she took at the beginning of this chapter and brining her back to Western Europe after a long journey abroad.

"You, the brother of the fair Cunegonde..."   (Chapter XIV)

Notice that this is the third person reputed to have died at the castle of Thunder-ten-Tronckh: first Pangloss, then Cunegonde, and now her brother. The order in which they appear to return from the dead also happens to be their order of importance to Candide, who loves his teacher first, Cunegonde second, and anyone else third.

"His name was Cacambo..."   (Chapter XIV)

Notice the parallels that Voltaire draws between Candide and Don Quixote: they both embark on absurd adventures, they both espouse religious philosophies, and they both have a companion, a Spaniard, who rides with him (Cacambo on an Andalusian horse, and Sancho Panza on a donkey). Voltaire often borrows from classic literature in this way.

"some years after I was sent to Rome..."   (Chapter XV)

This is the first indication to the reader that a significant amount of time has passed in the course of the book. Voltaire's writing style has the effect of making all the book's events appear to happen in quick succession, but, as we learn here, a significant amount of time has passed, which means that Candide and Cunegonde, who were teens when this began, are likely now in their mid to late twenties.

"conceived the tenderest friendship for me..."   (Chapter XV)

Notice the uncomfortable juxtaposition of Father Didrie's interest and Cunegonde's brother's beauty. Even in the 1700s, it was well-known that priests and other prominent religious officials often engaged in sexual relationships with young men, particularly boys who sang in the choir or went on to the priesthood. This tendency has been the cause of many scandals but is used here as the butt of a joke.

"truants..."   (Chapter XVII)

In general, to be "truant" means to be lazy, idle, or knavish, and to go about like a vagabond. More commonly, however, the word refers to children who have skipped school or are absent, as these children are here. In a society as rich as this, one wouldn't expect there to be any such problems, suggesting that this word, paired with the diminutive "little," is used affectionately or jokingly to refer to these playful kids.

"to kill one Admiral to encourage the others..."   (Chapter XXIII)

The logic that it is good to "kill one Admiral to encourage the others" suggests that other will be so afraid that they'll fight even harder in order to prove themselves. Voltaire exaggerates this uncommon situation of killing an admiral to express his profound distaste for the English and their justice system. Voltaire uses this brief, unsettling chapter to make what could be a long, harrowing voyage into a brief, straightforward one that moves the narrative along without complicating it.

"I would venture to lay a wager that they are very happy..."   (Chapter XXIV)

Notice the similarity between this wager and that posed by the old woman at the end of Chapter XII, when she bet that every passenger on the ship had a terrible life. It's reasonable to expect that Candide, having been on the losing side of that wager, and himself having experienced so much misery, would've learned his lesson, but he hasn't, and this fact alone suggests that he never will.

"that there is some pleasure in having no pleasure..."   (Chapter XXV)

This paradox perfectly describes the Senator's predicament: he cares for nothing, and, in caring for nothing, finds that he cares most for his inability to care, cultivating it to the point where he can usually speak of his disdain for some of the greatest literary figures without so much as batting an eye. Another way to put this would be that some people seem to revel in their misery, as it appears Martin often does.

"is this the great philosopher..."   (Chapter XXVII)

Notice Martin's incredulity when meeting Pangloss for the first time. At this point in the narrative, Pangloss has already lost an eye, an ear, and several teeth, as well as contracted syphilis and been hanged in an auto-da-fe. He shouldn't have survived, just as the Baron shouldn't have recovered from his stab wound, and yet Voltaire's story has prepared readers for this surprise by virtue of its narrative absurdity. Thus, readers can accept their appearance.

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