Good and evil in Candide

Assignment 2: Literary Analysis

The major assignment for this week is to compose a 900-word essay on a central theme that appears in one of the selected readings: Candide or Faust. In this paper you will write an in-depth analysis using your own ideas and excerpts from the text in the form of quotes, paraphrase, or summary.

As you prepare to write this essay, make sure you understand what you are being asked to do.

Pick a Topic

First, identify a topic in consultation with your instructor or write about ONE of the following options:

  • Decisions and consequences in Faust: Goethe’s Faust is driven by the decision of its central character to sell his soul to the devil and the consequences that arise. What is Faust’s motivation?  What drives him to make this deal?  What does he hope to gain?  What ultimately are the consequences of his actions?
  • Good and evil in Candide: Voltaire’s character, Candide, is naïvely innocent to the corruptness of the world, and, as he comes of age, he struggles to remain optimistic in the face of evil. Although raised to believe in goodness over evil, during his travels, Candide suffers a loss of innocence when he witnesses horrific acts of cruelty, natural disasters, and experiences human suffering. Afterwards, he grapples with the problem of evil and questions the existence of a benevolent God. Examine representations of good and evil in Candide and elaborate on the character’s loss of innocence and his struggle to remain optimistic.

Develop a Tentative Thesis

As you consider different options for your thesis,

  • Develop a few hypotheses about the text that are based on your own perspectives and relate to the topic that you chose to explore for this assignment.
  • In addition to considering the text’s plot, reflect on what genre and other elements of literature (see the online lecture on this topic) reveal about the cultures and important philosophies and values associated with this era and region.
  • Review the lecture on literary movements and determine if examining other literature will shed light on and/or test your hypotheses about the literary work.


Gather evidence that is likely to support your tentative thesis. Your evidence should consist of quotes, paraphrase, or summary from the literature’s text.

Next, choose one of the prewriting techniques discussed in chapter 3c, “Invent and Prewrite,” of The New Century Handbook and begin prewriting.

Rough Draft

Write your rough draft. You are not required to submit it, but you should acquire the habit of writing one for every essay you compose in this and other classes.

Revise and Edit

Proofread the rough draft to ensure that the

  • Thesis is clear and well focused and the introduction includes all the necessary information
  • Discussion of evidence includes quotes, paraphrase, or summary and synthesizes this material and your ideas
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