The Essay on Man and Candide: Character Analysis

Table of Contents


The literature of the Enlightenment is generally of the great interest for the philosophers, researchers and simply for people keen on literature of that period. The Alexander Pope’s “Essay on the man” and Voltaire’s “Candide, or Optimism” are regarded as the satiric literature of the eighteenth century. Both are claimed to get a deep insight into the human nature, and the origins of human fate, and if it can be changed.

The paper is claimed to analyze and compare these two creations, and define the distinctions in the discoveries of the human nature in French and English literature of Enlightenment.

The Essay on Man

A huge importance was imposed on the capability to imagine and think throughout the period of Enlightenment. People of this era regarded lots of topics and thought of variety of matters. Some people disquieted themselves with the matter of God, which as a result caused lots to address the church. Others were concerned with the structure and arrangement of the Universe, and man’s place and role in it. The first epistle of Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man” can be regarded an expression of the Enlightenment as it entails three major apprehensions of the people during the Enlightenment. Pope addresses man’s capability to think for himself, he relates the matters of church and the origins of Christianity, and he also wonders about man’s location in the world, as apart of the great sequence of life.

The capability to think reasonably was the key concentration of the Enlightenment also indicated The Age of Reason. Pope starts epistle one by application to the reason of his readers. He states, “Together let us beat this ample field, try to open, what the covert yield!” Pope persuades his spectators to use the cause they have been offered, to study those things that have been directed against. To reason about those matters which have been hold in secrecy. He then continues writing “say first, of God above, or man below, What can we reason, but from what we know?” Pope yet again is issuing the capability of his readers to think reasonably. He is attempting to bring them into the 18th century, requiring them to look for confirmation in the information they get, rather then permitting the church to provide them with all of their knowledge.

Pope discloses in his preliminary declaration, “The Design,” that Essay on Man was initially imagined as part of a longer philosophical poem, with four disconnected books. What we have today would include the first book. The second was to be a sequence of letters on human motives, human arts, and disciplines, human aptitude, and the application of studying, science and wittiness “joined with a satire against the malfunctions of them.” The third book would argue on the Science of Politics, and the fourth book would relate “private ethics” or “practical morality.”

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind and body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks to little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.”

Regarded as a whole, the Essay on Man is a positive poem of confidence: life appears to be chaotic and without any outline to man when he is in the middle of it, but is actually a rational segment of an exquisitely planned blueprint. In Pope’s world God exists, and he is beneficent: his world is an arranged place. The restricted intelligence of man can distinguish only an insignificant segment of this arrangement, and can realize only partial realities, and therefore must rely on hope, which causes faith. Man must be mindful of his rather irrelevant placement in the grand structure of things: those things which he desires most – wealth, authority, glory – turn to be insignificant in the superior context of which he is just faintly aware. In his place, it is man’s responsibility to strive to be good, even if he is destined, due to his intrinsic infirmity, to fail in his effort.

Fortune her gifts may variously dispose,
And these be happy call’d, unhappy those;
But Heav’n’s just balance equal will appear,
While those are placed in hope and these in fear:
Not present good or ill the joy or curse,
But future views of better or of worse.


A huge amount of deadly historical occasions encouraged Voltaire to write Candide. Not least amongst these is the Seven Years’ War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake; both are mentioned rather frequently in the book and quoted by researchers as the motives for its masterpiece. Apart from occasions, simultaneous typecasts of the German individuality may have been a basis of encouragement for the text; they were for Simplicius Simplicissimus, the 1669 novel by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen. These labels, in accordance to Voltaire biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge, entail “tremendous credulousness or sappy ease”, are Candide’s clarifying qualities.

In some measure Voltaire lampoons arranged religion by means of a sequence of dishonest, insincere religious heads who emerge throughout the novel. The audience meets the daughter of a Pope, a man who as a Catholic priest should have been celibate; a hard-line Catholic Inquisitor who dishonestly keeps a mistress; and a Franciscan friar who acts as a jewel robber, in spite of the swear of scarcity taken by members of the Franciscan array. In conclusion, Voltaire initiates a Jesuit colonel with obvious homosexual propensities. Religious managers in the novel also perform brutal movements of spiritual coercion against those who oppose them on even the minimum of theological issues. For instance, the Inquisition hounds Pangloss for communicating his notions and Candide for simply listening to them. Nevertheless Voltaire presents these frequent instances of insincerity and depravity in religious heads, he does not censure the daily religious believer. For instance, Jacques, a member of a fundamental Protestant sect called the Anabaptists, is debatably the most liberal and humane personality in the novel.

When Candide obtains a chance in Eldorado, it appears to be as if the worst of his difficulties might be over. Capture and bodily wounds are no longer hazards, as he can induce his way out of most circumstances. Yet, Candide is miserable as a prosperous man. The subsistence of watching his money dribble away into the hands of dishonest traders and bureaucrats tests his sanguinity in a way that no quantity of flogging could. In reality, Candide’s optimism turn to hit an all-time low after Vanderdendur deceives him; it is at this matter that he selects to make the naysayer Martin his traveling attendant. Candide’s finances continually attract false friends. Count Pococurante’s money coerces him to such world-tired tedium that he cannot value great art. The cash gift that Candide gives Brother Giroflée and Paquette coerces them rapidly to “the deepest misery.” As terrible as the repression and scarcity that outbreak the poor and immobilized may be, it is clear that money — and the supremacy that goes with it — generates at least as many troubles as it solves.

He and Cacambo landed near the first village they saw, at the entrance of which they perceived some children covered with tattered garments of the richest brocade, playing at quoits. Our two inhabitants of the other hemisphere amused themselves greatly with what they saw. The quoits were large, round pieces, yellow, red, and green, which cast a most glorious lustre. Our travellers picked some of them up, and they proved to be gold, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds; the least of which would have been the greatest ornament to the superb throne of the Great Mogul.

Without doubt,” said Cacambo, “those children must be the king’s sons that are playing at quoits.” As he was uttering these words the schoolmaster of the village appeared, who came to call the children to school.

Narrating the story of the good-natured but doomed Candide, as he travels the world harassed to be joined up with his love, Lady Cunegonde, the narrative breaks such ill-imagined cheerfulness to fragments. Candide’s tutor, Dr. Pangloss, is resolute in his rational good optimism, in the context of more and more incredible calamity; Candide’s other friends always provide good sagacity in the nick of instance. Still, as he knocks down optimism, Voltaire acts compliment to human elasticity, and in doing so offers the book an enjoyable indomitability general to shambles. Notes one personality, a princess revolved one-buttock hag by cruel Fate: “I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities; for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?”


The satire pictured in both the creations of classic literature, inspite of being aimed at various goals, may be underlined by the notion, that human nature is imperfect in the greatest extent. It is explained by the means of depicting various characters’ natures, and demerits. The emphasizing of thoughts and considerations is claimed to reveal people’s reasoning on the matters of Universe structure, and the place of a human within this structure.


Pope, A. Essay on Man and Other Poems. Dover Publications; New Ed edition, 1994.

Voltaire. Candide: Or Optimism Butt, J (translator). Penguin Classics 1950.