The Inside versus Outside Debate of Candide
The “Inside versus Outside” controversy of Voltaire’s Candide has been used to examine the literary theory and background of its author and conte (short story as a form of literary composition) of Candide. Roy S. Wolper argues in “Candide, Gull in the Garden?”, that Candide does not present a narrative that represents Voltaire’s view of reality, but rather the point of view of individual characters within the story of Candide. This “Voltaire Establishment” proposes that the story should be viewed independent of the history of Voltaire which rejects attempts to find Voltaire’s voice in the characters of the story. Wolper states that the message of Candide’s final decision to cultivate the garden is “inside” of the story and should be read with very little interpretation of the personal life of Voltaire. In “Wolper’s view of Voltaire’s tales”, Vivienne Mylne rejects Wolper’s arguments suggesting that there are too many similarities between Candide’s point of view and that of Voltaire. Mylne proposes that there is a strong connection between the development of the protagonist’s final decision and Voltaire’s biography, suggesting that an “outside” interpretation is necessary. Both Wolper and Mylne establish their arguments regarding Voltaire’s relationship with Candide by analyzing the literary texture of the reader’s maturity through Candide’s final decision, Voltaire’s purpose for creating Candide, and Voltaire’s portrayal of the moral qualities of Candide’s characters. The “Inside” versus “Outside” interpretation of Voltaire’s Candide gives light to the interpretation of what Voltaire was actually trying to establish in his Enlightenment ideologies and work.
In Candide, both Wolper and Mylne recognize the literary texture of the reader’s maturity through Candide’s final decision to cultivate the garden. Wolper argues that the reader perceives the nature of evil and cultural stupidity throughout the conte. He indicates that Candide is portrayed as a gull with limited vision, having been exposed to a series of experiences ultimately leading up to a conclusion of real consequence. The reader’s awareness regarding the conte does parallel Candide’s, suggesting that Candide has missed the meaning of his travels. Denying Normal L. Torrey’s account of Candide summing up “the period of personal discouragement after Voltaire’s departure from Berlin under his settlement near Geneva,”(Wolper 270),Wolper implies that Candide is speaking from his own of accord and not similar to the history of Voltaire. Wolper explains that the old Turk in the story of Candide prompts the protagonist to cultivate the garden. Wolper brings into account the ignorance of the Turk to Candide’s experiences and the outside cruelty of the world as the old Turk “clearly does not care about what happens anywhere save in his garden.” (Wolper 270) The old Turk also states that “no matter what Bulgaria or Turkey or England or France or Germany is doing, we are going to be safe here.” (Wolper 270) Wolper suggests that Candide should know throughout the evolution of the novel that evil has no boundaries having been exposed to the rape of Cunegonde and the old woman, slaughter of innocents, and the dark realities surrounding the protagonist. Wolper suggests that Candide has missed the meaning of his travels which culminates in a final decision to listen to the old Turk. Supposedly, listening to the old Turk was not in Candide’s best interest. Wolper indicates that Candide’s view of life is underscored by the culmination of his final decision, ironic to the world of the conte, itself. Wolper suggests that Voltaire was aware of the connection between cultural stupidity and evil, ultimately rejecting the biography of Voltaire and the evolution of the Candide as one that presents a strong positive correlation in Voltaire’s conte. Even though Mylne agrees with Wolper’s objections to Voltaire’s behavior at given time periods to interpret Candide, she instead proposes the question of the nature of the conte. Mylne proposes that the nature of Candide being a gull is refuted throughout Candide as the protagonist expresses doubt regarding Pangloss’s optimistic view of the best of all possible worlds. Mylne supports Wolper’s idea that the feelings brought on by the series of unfortunate events experienced by the protagonist are meant to be interpreted and understood by the reader. Mylne suggests that these feelings are brought to the surface not when actually reading but when the reader pauses to “reflect on the conte.” (Mylne 323) Mylne further argues that Wolper’s view of the protagonist being represented as a static dunce is not expressive of all presented evidence, as the conte laces the story of the protagonist’s hardships with irony and satirical humor. Mylne then asks whether the reader should feel seriously regarding the expressions of the characters of Candide and Cunegonde upon their reunitement in Lisbon and further Candide’s reaction to Cunegonde’s situation with her multiple suitors. (Mylne 325) Mylne supposes that the reader is meant to interpret these characters’ reactions when Candide’s final decision to cultivate the garden manifests as a debate regarding the reflection of Voltaire’s own metaphysical garden. The literary texture of the reader’s maturation through the progression of Candide serves to highlight the debate of whether or not Voltaire’s biography played a part in the nature of this Enlightenment text.
Voltaire’s purpose for creating Candide is interpreted by Mylne and Wolper in both their analyses of the conte. Wolper claims that looking at Voltaire’s work as being didactic actually weakens the story itself which causes the reader to look into an irrelevant biography of the narrator and not actually focus on the content of the conte. Wolper disagrees with those who see Candide’s final choice to cultivate the garden as one in line with Voltaire’s own history. Wolper disagrees with Peter Gay’s account of Voltaire’s migration to Berlin as being a “transitional stage before commitment when Voltaire still defined action as thoughtful resignation to reality.” (Wolper 272) Wolper points out that this theory finds a specific moment in the biography of Voltaire and attempts to find an obscure purpose to the outside interpretation of the intended message. Wolper suggests that Candide speaks from his point of view, not one derivative of Voltaire’s biography. Wolper supports his claim by suggesting that Voltaire satirizes Candide in his adventures ultimately concluding in a detachment from the main character in Candide. Mylne claims that Candide’s purpose serves as a catalyst for Voltaire’s message found in the ending statement of “we must cultivate our garden.” Mylne questions Wolper’s interpretation of Candide’s final call to action, suggesting that the literary conventions and tone of the conte must be analyzed to bring out Voltaire’s implications within Candide. Mylne disapproves of Candide being referred to as a gull, as the final decision results in an outcome that works in the protagonist’s best interest. Mylne agrees with Wolper’s view that Candide is portrayed in a satirical fashion at times, but does not actually suggest that there is any real detachment of the narrator from the protagonist. For example, Mylne mentions Candide’s serious reaction to the desecrated slave in Surinam and points out that this is one of the moments that Voltaire’s ideological attack on optimism is paramount in Candide which suggests a purpose for the work itself. Mylne and Wolper both raise points that question the true nature and voice of Voltaire in Candide, which ultimately leads to a better understanding regarding the ambiguity dilemma of Enlightenment ideologies within the text.
Wolper’s view of Voltaire’s portrayal of the moral qualities of Candide’s characters satirizes the existence of God and the the logical argument of evil. Wolper argues that Candide’s characters have been reduced to functions. For example, Wolper analyzes Candide as the leader failing to support the supposed thesis of the conte as a beneficence towards others as a whole. Wolper suggests that Candide’s group does not embody the “conte’s hope to portray virtue in its largest sense of the world.” Wolper argues that Candide’s group has seen poverty and the desecration of the world to which denies Pangloss medical help without the help of Anabaptist Jacques. Poverty made Candide a victim of Bulgar recruiters and led to Paquette becoming a prostitute. Pangloss is portrayed as ignorant and ultimately cruel by Wolper when Pangloss attempts to find justification for the existence of natural evil in the world. Pangloss claims that Syphilis needed to be transmitted through the intercontinental exchange so that the Europeans could enjoy things like chocolate. Pangloss’s argument is satirized as a way to make light of the natural existence of evil and the redundancy of the nature of the character. Wolper suggests that the group contributes to the ongoing cruelty and carnage of the world, where Candide’s function as the leader is satirized as he fails to learn about virtue and good towards the world as a whole. Candide supposedly turns his back on others except when “using them in economic or religious or physical exploitation.”(Wolper 272) Wolper describes Candide’s spiteful selling of Cunegonde’s brother into a gally where he knows that the brother will be whipped to death. Mylne agrees with the Wolper’s view that the functions of the characters are reduced but not necessarily to portray a picture of what the characters should be, in theory. Mylne argues that if “evil has no borders,” (Mylne 320) then the settlement of the group at the end does not play a part in the argument of whether or not Candide’s character is constructive. Mylne further argues that Voltaire’s presentation of his character behave without realistic reason but rather conventions of character’s present within the Enlightenment period of Voltaire’s writing of the conte, itself. Mylne disagrees with Wolper’s argument that the characters within the conte contribute to the cruelty and carnage of the world. Mylne supports her argument by supposing that all of the references to carnage and cruelty are satirized by Voltaire and are not meant to be taken seriously. Mylne even goes as far as to say that “even the characters’ tender feelings are mocked.” (Mylne 322) Therefore, this argument suggests that the characters within Candide present a limited set of characteristics where no greater interpretation of the existence of the moral ambiguity of the existence of evil within the work. The structure of the characters and their presentation of moral dilemmas within the controversy of the “Inside” versus “Outside” debate emphasize Voltaire’s placement of his characters through his secular ideals regarding the logical argument of evil within his story and the world as a whole.
The “Inside” versus “Outside” debate of Voltaire’s Candide illustrates a controversy of what Voltaire meant to do and what what he actually did. Candide’s intention to mock the theory of optimism is a singular facet of a work that actually presents multiple meanings. The autonomic nature and inside reference to the text versus the text’s biographical considerations of the author teaches the reader that different layers of implied meaning exist with varied interpretations of analysis. While these theories are incompatible to one another, their existence serves to highlight the intentionality of what Voltaire meant to portray during his time period. “Candide, Gull in the Garden?” by Roy S. Wolper and “Wolper’s view of Voltaire’s tales” by Vivienne Mylne debate Candide’s moral qualities of its characters, the author’s agency with the text and the analysis of the reader’s interpretation.
The Inside versus Outside Debate of Candide