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In telling the story of his life, Martin refers to two religious ideologies. He claims that the Surinamese clergy persecuted him because they thought he was a Socinian. The Socinians were a Christian sect formed during the Reformation. They rejected the divinity of Christ, the trinity, and original sin. They greatly influenced Enlightenment thought and aided in the formation of the ideology of the Unitarian Universalist church. The Surinamese clergy were, however, mistaken in their understanding of Martin’s “heresy.” Martin claims that he is not a Socinian, but a “Manichee.” Manichaeism is an ancient religion founded by the sage Mani. The Manichaeans see the universe in terms of the dual forces of good and evil. They believe that these two forces are equally powerful in the world and are continually in conflict. Manichaeans believe that through spiritual knowledge, human beings can conquer the evil side of their natures. Christians, whose doctrines hinge on a belief in a good and all-powerful god who is more powerful than the evil represented by Satan, fiercely reject Manichaeism. The precepts of Manichaeism also directly conflict with Pangloss’s optimism, since a world dominated in part by evil cannot be perfect or perfectible.
For the remainder of the novel, Martin’s ideas provide an enlightening counterexample to the beliefs espoused by Pangloss and Candide. In general, Martin’s arguments seem more reasonable and compelling than Candide’s renditions of Pangloss’s ideas. But, like Pangloss, Martin believes so firmly in his own view of the world that he occasionally dismisses real evidence that contradicts his philosophy, thereby discrediting it. For example, in Chapter 24, Martin asserts that Cacambo has certainly run off with Candide’s money, and according to Martin’s cynical opinion of human nature, there is no way Cacambo could do otherwise. In reality, however, Cacambo remains loyal to Candide, even though he does not stand to gain anything. Like Pangloss’s optimism, Martin’s pessimism is based too heavily on abstract speculation and dogmatic belief, and not enough on empirical evidence. Voltaire personally may have found ideas like Martin’s philosophy more credible, but he does not endorse them entirely in his writing. Absolute pessimism, Voltaire seems to say, is as short-sighted and self-defeating as absolute optimism.
In Chapter 22, Voltaire indulges in some relatively good-natured satire of his native country. Voltaire wrote Candide after he had been in exile for several years, and his portrait of the Parisian character, while quite condemnatory, has a ring of intimacy to it. He describes the gambling, sexual license, theater, and debauchery of the city in colorful detail. The xenophobia that the abbé exploits to rob Candide and that forces Candide to leave the country is perhaps meant to represent the intellectual intolerance that also forced Voltaire out of his homeland.
Voltaire’s portrayal of the English demonstrates the range of his critical eye. He was generally very admiring of English government and culture and considered England the most progressive nation in Europe. However, Voltaire does not attempt to portray England as a perfect, or even a good, place. With his depiction of the admiral’s execution, Voltaire acknowledges that even the country he most admires subscribes to the same ridiculous, irrational logic and the same barbaric practices that are found in every other place on earth.
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