When Does Candide Take Place?

Candide takes place in real and fictional locations of Europe and Latin America. There are no indications of the historical period in the novella. However, Chapter 5 describes the earthquake in Lisbon that took place in 1755. The action lasts during almost all of Candide’s lifetime. That is why the setting of the story is in the mid-18th century.

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Like many other writers of the Enlightenment, Voltaire depicted Candide as his peer. The Lisbon earthquake and the English Admiral’s execution were actual events of the 1750s. Although these cases are briefly mentioned in the novella, they help us to date the plot.   

Most of the narrative is fictional, but the characters’ stories look truthful to some extent. Voltaire exaggerated some aspects, such as the mysterious revival of the characters. However, the atrocities of war, women’s sexual and physical abuse, greed, and hypocrisy of governors and priests were real. This realistic part makes the text true-to-life and turns the novella into a philosophical parable. 

It is noteworthy that the novella and Voltaire’s oeuvre, in general, refer to the Enlightenment. It was an intellectual and spiritual movement of the late 17th – early 19th centuries in Europe and North America. The epoch naturally continued the humanism of the Renaissance and the rationalism of the beginning of the modern era. It also led to the rejection of the religious worldview and appeal to reason as the only humankind criterion.

The Enlightenment in France had the most radical views on politics and society. Their ideas created the foundation for the ideology of the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). 

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