The free dictionary online defines knowledge as “an awareness, consciousness, or familiarity gained by experience or learning”. Power, on the other hand, means “the ability or official capacity of a person, group or nation to exercise great influence or control and authority over others”. In Voltaire’s “Candide”, Goethe’s “Faust”, and Shelley’s Frankenstein, the quest for more knowledge and power sets the stage for the story yet the characters, Candide, Frankenstein, and Faust remain unhappy after acquiring the much desired knowledge and power. It can be said, therefore, that knowledge, and even money, often times twists and corrupts the mind because of the control (power) it gives people over others.
For instance, Voltaire states how Candide gains some form of education “with all the good faith of his age and character” by listening to the lectures of Pangloss -“the oracle of the household” and a dysfunctional philosopher (520). Unfortunately, Candide’s quest for knowledge is not fulfilled as he gets banished from the castle at an early age. By the end of the story though, his experiences as he journeys through life helps in educating him further thereby bringing about a positive change in his philosophical views on life. In addition, we see the theme power in the scene where Candide acquires some fortune as he bumps into a perfect city called Eldorado. With money, he believes he can get whatever he desires and exercise control over others by bribing his way out of most situations. “We have, said Candide, enough to pay off the governor of Buenos Aires-if indeed, a price can be placed on Miss Cunegonde. Let us go to Cayenne, take ship there, and then see what kingdom we can find to buy up” (551). Unfortunately, most of the fortu...
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...lusion, the quest for more knowledge and power can only be perceived as bad if it twists and corrupts the mind. But in reality, it is indeed a good thing to gain more knowledge and the power that comes with it since development and human advancement cannot have come this far without it. Knowledge, a popular adage says, is power!
Goethe, Johann W. V. “Faust.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature: 1800-1900. Eds. Sarah Lawall and Maynard Mack. 2nd ed. Vol. E. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002. 774. Print.
Voltaire, Francois-Marie A. “Candide.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature: 1650-1800. Eds. Sarah Lawall and Maynard Mack. 2nd ed. Vol. D. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002. 520-567. Print.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branaugh. Perf. Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branaugh, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hulce, and Aida Quinn. Dolby, 1998. Film.
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