Short Essay #1

Date due (via TurnitIn, on Blackboard): Friday, October 15th by 11:59pm EST.
Please use the assignment template provided below and write your essay directly into it. Kindly save your document as ENG2850_LastName_FirstName_Essay1.


Your first essay will be on Candide, by Voltaire (1759). It should be 1000 to 1250 words long. You should organize your argument in two or three parts and choose specific examples to illustrate your point, duly presenting your quotes in quotation marks and indicating the page number in parenthesis.

Here’s a tip: divide up the word count into your two or three main points. You can title each part of your essay if you wish, or simply lay out your page so that the different parts of your analysis are clearly discernible, but don’t forget to write transitions for your reader when you switch parts.

In any case, you should have a separate paragraph for your introduction (in which you will explain your topic, formulate the questions you will attempt to answer, and announce the structure of your analysis) and another paragraph for your conclusion (in which you will reiterate your point and open up towards further questions your analysis will have prompted).

Please choose one of the following prompts to guide your analysis:

1. Analyze the concept of optimism as depicted through the story of Candide (the character).
You may choose to focus on the character (characterization), on plot, or on any other aspect through which you read the text. How is optimism pictured in the text? Can you associate this depiction of optimism to any political or philosophical position? How can you tie it back to the historical context of Candide, which was published in France in 1759? Make your analysis as specific as you can by focusing on one particular aspect of the story which conveys a depiction of optimism (character, plot, etc.). Organize your argument in two or three parts and choose specific examples to illustrate your point, duly presenting your quotes in quotation marks and indicating the page number in parenthesis.

2. Discuss the use of satire as a literary device in Candide. How do you recognize satire in the text? What are specific examples of it, and what effect do these passages produce? What is their intended audience? How can you relate those satirical passages to the whole plot, and more broadly, to the historical, social, and/or political context of 18th-century France?

3. Discuss the representation of religion in the passage below. Closely analyze the passage below through the lens of religion. Relate it to the whole chapter, the wider plot, as well as the wider context of Candide. Two or three points should emerge from your reading of this passage: make them the different parts that structure your essay. What does the passage suggest about religion? Additionally, is there anything the text suggests about the female gender, in this passage?

Candide fled quickly to another village […] The orator’s wife, putting her head out of the window, and spying a man that doubted whether the Pope was Anti-Christ, poured over him a full…. Oh, heavens! to what excess does religious zeal carry the ladies.’ (Chapter 3)

This is how the passage begins and ends: please analyze the whole passage contained within the […].

Tip for close text analysis: Read the passage a first time without taking any notes. Pause at the end and listen to your thoughts. What does it make you think about? How does it make you feel? Why? Take note of where your head takes you, and read the passage again, now influenced by your particular perspective. You now have your topic angle, and from a second and third reading should emerge some subpoints to structure your analysis.

4. Formulate a question of your own, which you will first discuss with me to ensure it has the potential to yield analysis. This is a good option if you read Candide through a perspective you do not see represented in the prompts above.

*No other texts than Candide are required for this essay, but if you would like to use any additional sources, please feel free to do so, as long as you acknowledge them. Please note that the rubric does not take into account any use of external sources for the calculation of your grade.*


This assignments counts for 25% of your course grade.

Here is how I will assess your essay:

  • Clarity of Argument: 30%
  • Organization of Argument: 20%
  • Support of Argument with Specific Examples from the Text: 20%
  • Attention to Reader (clear transitions and multiple formulations of the points addressed): 15%
  • Language, Grammar and Layout: 15%

Please use this rubric as a checklist before you submit your work.

The points gathered out of 100 will determine your letter grade as presented in the table (cf. syllabus). You will be given a letter grade for this essay, but it is your score out of 100 which will determine the 25% of your final grade that this essay represents. At the end of the semester, the points gathered in essay 1, essay 2, participation, and the final exam will give a total score out 100, and you will see the corresponding letter grade on your transcript.