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Originated in Europe, “Les Lumières”or the Enlightenment is a literary and philosophical movement of the 18th century. This movement is based on the fundamental principles of “enlighten reasoning”,progress, tolerance, liberty, and the understanding and the spreading of knowledge. The enlightenment was an opposition to the traditional society and all other oppressing systems prevailing duringthat time period. Many philosophers belonging to the movement wrote engaged literary works that definitely influenced what are our modern societies today.
In 1759, the French Philosopher Voltaire wroteCandide ou l’Optimisme. One of the main objectives of this philosophical tale was to criticize Leibnitz’s metaphysical optimism philosophy, which can be simplified by “the best of all possibleworlds”. To do so, Voltaire takes us with the hero, Candide, to places meeting people, leaving the world of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh, traveling to the Eldorado and finally settling down to a place where he can“cultivate his garden”.
The notion of utopia is omnipresent in Candide and the presentation of an utopist society in the Americas is in fact a perfect way to support the Enlightenment ideals and bettercriticize European societies. The Eldorado is the symbol of the Golden age, wealth and also happiness. It is a prosperous society that developed itself through culture and knowledge (Voltaire’s ideals)and the author does not miss the opportunity to point it out:
“What surprised [Candide] more, and gave him most pleasure, was the palace of sciences, in which he saw a gallery two thousand pieceslong, entirely filled with mathematical and physical instruments.”
The Eldorado knows and puts forward knowledge by making it accessible. The city is a parallel world in direct opposition toThunder-Ten-Tronckh, the conventional and closed-minded world where there are no other possibilities than what is already established. This unrealistic world surprises Candide, for at this point he is no...