At the beginning of Voltaire’s novella, Candide, we are introduced to Pangloss, a professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology, stating that this world is the best of all possible worlds and that there is no effect without a cause. Pangloss considers himself an optimist, believing that eventually everything, including terrible injustices, will work out for the best. Voltaire communicates this message throughout the novella’s series of unfortunate yet comedic events.
The series of unfortunate events occurs in almost every chapter of the novella. Canidide’s bad luck begins in the first chapter when he is banished from the castle by the baron after he and Cunegonde secretly kiss. Next, he is save from hunger and fatigue by Buglar soldiers, though he is abused while he is trained to be a soldier. When the Buglarian king learns that Candide is a young metaphysician and thus “extremely ignorant of things of this world” (4), he is pardoned for his unintentional desertion. After having human waste dumped over his head for stating that the Pope could be the Antichrist, Candide finds Pangloss, whose body has been ravaged by syphilis, in the street. While Pangloss becomes deformed by the infection, he still believes that it is necessary in the best of worlds. These unfortunate events continue to occur throughout the novella, including natural disasters and diseases, all satirizing Pangloss’ optimistic, though unrealistic, philosophy.
While Candide believes and follows Pangloss’ philosophy, everything that he experiences throughout the novella should tell him that this philosophy is wrong. While these unfortunate events are humorous to us readers, their purpose is to teach us a lesson – that humans use philosophy and other reasoning to justify their own bad actions. They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame their beliefs instead, leading to injustice and corruption that need to be faced and not blamed on fate.