As I was watching The Timeless of the Hero’s Journey, one of the speakers Robert Sharma said that all greatest works of literature and philosophy have what Joseph Campbell called “a hero’s journey.” It reminded me of the philosophical work I had read some time before. It was Voltaire’s Candide. The book features the philosophical and physical journey of its protagonist – a young man named Candide. Even though Candide and other characters in the book are described in a satirical tone, he may be seen as a hero with his own journey. The most interesting aspect of the plot is Candide’s accumulation of experience nd his coming of age.
As I was watching the documentary, I found that Candide’s journey repeats the patterns described by scholars. On a simple level, Candide follows what Robert Walter, the President of Joseph Campbell Foundation, refers to as the basic algorithm of separation, initiation, and return. For example, Candide goes through separation as he is forced to leave the castle of Baron, his uncle, and part with Cunegonde, Baron’s daughter whom he loves. Initiation takes place as Candide endures all hardships on his way and eventually finds Cunegonde. During this phase, Candide rises on several occasions, murders Issachar and even the Inquisitor; displays skills with weapon use; and does some other heroic deeds. It is during this phase as well that philosophical initiation takes place as Candide loses his naivety and accumulates diverse experience. Finally, Candide returns to where he was initially as he reunites with Cunegonde and attempts to preserve his genuine naivety. Even though he becomes more knowledgeable and changes a lot, he returns to the quiet life he dreamt of. So, the return takes place both physically and philosophically.
What I remember the most about the journey of Candide is its unexpected twists. At one time, Candide takes part in battles while at another time he travels to El Dorado. Every experience makes him change. All in all, even though it is hard to call Candide a classical hero’s journey, this novel has many characteristics of this quest.