Study Guide

The Scholar in Candide

By Voltaire

The Scholar

The Voice of Reason

This character has an incredibly minor role. So minor, in fact, that most people overlook him altogether. But before you dismiss him as yet another foolish caricature, take a look at his lines. You might notice that they are completely devoid of exaggeration, absurdity, or humor. In fact, he sounds like a rather legit voice speaking with incredible insight and wisdom. If any character in Candide is meant to be the voice of Voltaire himself, then this guy is the main contender.

So what does Voltaire use him for? We find the scholar in Chapter 22, while Candide and Martin bustle around France. In response to Candide’s questions of cause and effect, the scholar replies that he "knows nothing" of these matters. Like Voltaire, this man is unconcerned with metaphysics. His only response is that the world seems confused, men are at each other’s throats, and order has turned to chaos.

This, perhaps, is Voltaire’s view of his own place and time. And—hey: maybe of every place and time.

Voltaire also takes the opportunity to expound on his own views of literature and drama. He slams those works that he does not approve of, works with "no merit" that "lull to sleep" or "repel." He also reveals what it is that makes great literature: to "seduce the spectator," to "know the human heart and make it speak." This kernel of truth, of candor, lies buried in the text of Candide, surrounded and perhaps hidden by the rest of Voltaire’s satire and mockery.