Candide - Voltaire
How could a hundred-page novel about an idiotic man who gets kicked out of the house for smooching his cousin be considered one of the most influential pieces of literature during the Enlightenment and subsequently influence the American Constitution? Good question. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson was entranced by Voltaire's snarky commentary. Perhaps America planned to use the book to send the British into a daze and end Anglo-American conflict forever. Who knows for sure? At least we all got a good laugh out of it- and now we're an independent country with rules to protect human rights or whatever, so I guess that's good too.
And that's what you missed in Candide
"What is this optimism?"
"Alas! It is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong."
Candide is an extremely condensed story. If one does not pay utmost attention while reading, one may find that Candide has already accomplished whatever quest he set out to do and started another three. Seemingly drastic issues are solved by coincidence and luck. No issue has any longstanding effect on the protagonist. Candide's only notable personality trait is his senseless optimism. Events seem unconnected and pointless, also having little effect on the protagonist. It appears that Voltaire jumbled together all his opinions and experiences in a satirical soup and called it a book. Despite the muddled plot, the Enlightenment influence is displayed prominently in Voltaire's assertion that the wealthy face no true consequences, that man must respond to individual events instead of turning to a general philosophy for answers, and that man must not expect a deity to come to his rescue each time he faces peril. I can comprehend why it is a notable book; I cannot, however, comprehend how eighteenth-century readers understood the plot without SparkNotes.
I will say, I make a mean audiobook. Listen and enjoy. If you feel like commissioning me to do a full audiobook after listening, that's fine.