The candide way of cultivating the garden
“Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but let us cultivate our garden.” So ended Voltaire’s famous philosophical novel, Candide or Optimism (Voltaire, p. 172). Candide, the main character of this short novel gave these last words to Pangloss, his tutor, who reminded him again that despite the many misadventures that they have experienced, all was for the good in the best of possible worlds.
Candide and the coterie of friends he had with him in the conclusion of the book had experienced misery the like of which is beyond even the comprehension of the ordinary person. Candide had been driven away from all over Europe by the Inquisition, Pangloss had been hanged but survived, the old woman had been ravished and half her buttock cut away, Cunegund, Candide’s sweetheart, has become so despicably ugly, Martin, the Philosopher had been beaten and robbed by his own family, etc. Although Candide and his fateful servant, Cacambo have amassed a great treasure, misfortune after misfortune had them in the end working in a plot of land with the small company previously mentioned. What could be annoying if not, ironically funny about the situation is Pangloss constant reminder that all is best at the best of all possible worlds. Candide had enough of this and at one point give this response after they saw a Negro stretched on the ground with only one half of his habit, which was a kind of linen frock; for the poor man had lost his left leg and his right hand and have listened to his story: “O Pangloss!” cried out Candide, “such horrid doings never entered thy imagination. Here is an end of the matter. I find myself, after all, obliged to renounce thy Optimism (Voltaire, p. 93),” Candide may not be the only one renouncing Pangloss’ optimism but the tutor himself. Pangloss avowed that he had undergone dreadful sufferings; but having once maintained that everything went on as well as possible, he still maintained it, and at the same time believed nothing of it (Voltaire, p. 167)
What Candide referred to as their garden, could be interpreted to mean the mundane tasks (e.g. livelihood) that they are doing as opposed to spending their time having metaphysical discussions that are proved untenable if they have to take into account their collective experiences. The concluding statement of the novel is a milder rebuke to hopeless romantics and optimists by Voltaire compared to the novel in toto which is a collective attack on the best of all possible worlds.
Aside from attacking a particular philosophy, Voltaire illustrated the tendency of the mainstream society to delve in romantic adventures that has nothing or no parallel at all in the real world. Candide is an adventure story in an ironic tone and a very satiric outcome.
There is so much misery and misfortune in the world that proclaiming that it still is the best of possible world is preposterous as well as totally untrue. Mass murders of the innocent, catastrophic earthquakes and other misfortunes may not support the best of all possible worlds explanation especially from the perspectives of the fatalities. The best of possible worlds is something of a utopia which is not yet in existence but hopefully strived for. Luck and chance has nothing whatsoever to do with it. A philosophical perspective could not suffice to explain the mix of misfortune and happiness that each one of us experiences. There is so much that could not be explained in this world. Its complexities could perhaps be let alone. The least that man can do to cope with this is to continue living as Candide does-tending his garden.
Voltaire. (n.d.). Candide. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from www.4shared.com: http://www.4shared.com/get/31758565/49a888e7/voltaire-candide.html