As the doyen of the French Enlightenment, Voltaire has come to exemplify the Age of Reason.
It was illuminating to realize that his masterpiece Candide didn’t express the self-assured confidence and optimism that distinguished his time. Instead, the novella introduces a bleak vision of human existence, a vision completely nihilistic through and through.
The word of Candide is the anarchic realm of contingency, where both natural and artificial catastrophes are continuous, where human beings are frivolous, vile creatures – a world where hope is dead. In the conclusion, the black farce of the preceding scenes settles down to a mood of melancholic abdication.
Most people will never be able to muster the courage for suicide, so the best we can do to make life bearable in an absurd existence is to engross ourselves in extremely banal labor in order to anesthetize our thoughts to the horrific reality.