The Modern Language Review
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Although the two literatures written by different authors who have taken a different approach to explain things but overall theme is similar enough to make a comparison. In Voltaire’s Candide, the theme seems to be revolving around the goodness on this planet. In Gulliver’s travels, Swift takes a different approach towards materialism but with a similar attitude as Voltaire. One favors goodness and the other goes for materialism but both took their approaches whole heartedly.
First we will look at Swift’s Gulliver’s travel while analyzing the overall approach and reasoning behind this approach. Gulliver is a protagonist who keeps travelling various places. On one occasion, he ended up in a place where he met a strange group of people who were strange in their behavior and had a similar greed towards gems and colored stones. Other aspects of these people were different than humans but materialism qualities prevail in them just like they do in humans. This is what the author wants to bring his readers and emphasizes that materialism is a universal concept and we humans are not unique in it. (Lund, 2006)
These people lack a proper culture and do not even have a proper law in place that is necessary to create a society. But what Gulliver saw was impressive enough to inspire him. They were brilliant people to an extent that they kept things simple in their daily lives and able to live happily without much hassle. In contrast, Gulliver began to think of how humans have not only created complex laws and rules for their populations yet they are unable to control even some basic errors like lawlessness and other material aspects that he thought were a drawback of human life style. (Lund, 2006)
There was another group of people against the noble houyhnhnms who were known as yahoos. Yahoo were very much like the humans, they had a share of greed, lust and war mongering about them that reminded Gulliver of his own self. Yahoos were almost humans in nature but not much in appearance.
Houyhnhnms were simple people and they admired their simplicity which was evident from every angle of their lives. They worked hard to make a living; they did not have complex rules to follow. They didn’t have highly professional approach towards life like we humans do. These things struck Gulliver particularly more and he wanted to be one of them, to live with them forever because he saw innocence and simplicity in them which made him think that this is the way to spend life. The theme of materialism over morality is presented effectively in Swift’s work.
Candide is a story that is written in a satire tone written by Voltaire which has many interesting aspects that a reader rarely sees. It begins with excitement and comes along as a never ending story of destruction and accidents, incidents and what not but in the end; the theme of the work suggests that no matter how evil this world is, there is always a positivity hidden inside it. (Lynch, 2007)
This is sheer optimism that the writer believes in. He takes all the badness and evilness in a positive manner and says that all this is a part of our universe and we as humans live with good and bad on a planet that is the best planet in the entire universe. (Betts, 2007) The story goes on with a group of people who take one adventure after another and a busy life with risks and fear of death but they tend to enjoy all this without even thinking that a single mishap might end their lives. This has repeatedly been emphasized by Voltaire as he seems to echo his optimistic nature to the reader so many times that it sounds little embarrassing. Voltaire refuses to believe in God and says that if any God exists, he has to be perfect otherwise, thiis is the life we have and we spend it the way we want to. Strange as it sounds, this is his logic. To verify his logic, he and his colleagues experience different activities in both good and evil. Pangloss, one of his companions, had some absurd ideas himself when he says that syphills were transferred from US to Europe only to make the Europeans to experience the varying tastes of life.
They further experience different activities including crimes and murders which are not justified by human laws anywhere in the world. This logic was merely to prove their point that there is no evil anywhere in the universe and everything is in the tone of goodness. Even bad deeds serve the purpose of goodness because they are there to show the effect of goodness. Imagine a world where there was no bad and only good, would we be able to recognize the difference of good or bad then?
A twisted logic to say the least but Voltaire seems to have enjoyed this way of thinking. Many flaws can be found with a glimpse of logic. The absolute belief of materialism and absence of real world interpretations is the biggest flaw that these opinions show in their approach. Satire is the theme of the work where the major characters have a satiric tone towards the realities of life and in their thirst of sheer optimism they even forgot the difference of right and wrong. (Betts, 2007)
Repeatedly, this approach reduced their wisdom to make a fair and balanced assessment of their surrounding or the real world but they chose not to do so. The worst consequence of this logic was seen when one of their colleagues was drowning and Pangloss stopped Voltaire from saving him only to present his argument that the Lisbon Bay was specifically formed to drown this Anabaptist to lay beneath the water. Throughout the novel, there is a satiric tone to the normal advents of life and all the major characters particularly Pangloss, defied the very principles of logic in chasing his own ideas for life.