In the 11th grade online Ron Paul online class I have been told to write a 2,500 word paper with the title “How important has the theme of optimism been in the development of Western literature since 1493? ” I will break this questions in multiple parts, then I will explain them one at a time. I will start with the word optimism. 

According to the Dictionary, optimism is the “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.” In my own words I think that if your optimistic you are happy and almost nothing can disappoint or annoy you. It is like the half-empty half full scenario. If your optimistic you would say that the glass is half full, but if not then you would say that the glass is half empty. 

In 1493 Western literature was published and up until now the theme of optimism has been very important. I am going to put some important works of literature in this essay. I will describe where and how optimism is in these works of literature. 

The first work of literature I will talk about was written in 1517 and it is called Martin Luther’s 95 theses. According to Wikipedia, “The Ninety-five Theses or Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences was a list of propositions for an academic disputation written in 1517 by Martin Luther, then a professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, which was controlled by the Electorate of Saxony.” The 95 theses were originally written in Latin and published on October 31, 1517. Now what does Martin Luther’s 95 theses have to do with the theme of optimism? In these 95 theses Martin Luther Explains that if you follow the Godly standards in his 95 theses you will have eternal life in Heaven. 

The next work is a book called Candide, written by Voltaire. This book is mainly about an optimistic man named Candide going through some highly improbable (not likely to happen) events to find a New World. According to Lit Charts, “Candide pits the optimistic doctrine of Pangloss—that we live in the “best of all possible worlds”—against the long and senseless series of misfortunes endured by Candide and the other characters. Candide begins the novel as a faithful student of Pangloss, but painful experience prompts him to reconsider his views….Candide suggests that the struggle of human life—an endless cycle of optimism and disillusionment—might in fact be preferable to a static faith in the “best of all possible worlds.” A the end of the book Candide realizes that the New World is the same as the Old World. There is just as much evil, war, and sin. Candide began to wonder ” If there was a God, then why would he let bad things happen.” He argued with a man named Gottfried Leibniz who was a mathematician and philosopher. The man said that evil existed because God was using it to bring about an ultimate good.

The next work of Literature I will write about is one you most likely know. It is Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe. Here is a recap of what I have read. First Robinson Crusoe leaves his home on a boat in search of an adventure, but he comes upon a storm. After this storm is over the boat is still floating. A couple days later another storm hits the ship and the ship sinks. Robinson Crusoe and a few other men escape in lifeboats. Later in the book Robinson Crusoe is enslaved in England for a few years. When he gets a chance to escape on a small boat with another slave, he does. After a couple weeks they come across a Portuguese ship. The man in charge buys Robinson Crusoe’s boat and takes them to South America. Robinson Crusoe builds a plantation there and becomes wealthy, but he wants more money. His friend asks him to take a ship to Africa and get some slaves. He tells Robinson Crusoe he’ll get paid so Robinson Crusoe accepts. On the way there a storm hits and Robinson Crusoe with the other men jump off the ship thinking that it will sink. Robinson Crusoe swims to an Island and when the storm is over the ship is still there, but all of the other people drowned. Robinson Crusoe swims to the ship and builds a raft so he can bring helpful things back to the island to help him survive. For the next few days he brings things from the ship to the island. This includes a dog and some cats. One night there is a storm and the ship sinks. A few months later the ship reappears and is much closer to shore. Robinson Crusoe goes to take more things off the ship. After about 28 years an English ship comes to the island and takes Robinson Crusoe back to Europe. This book has many parts with optimism, for example when he escapes slavery, then he becomes rich on a different continent, he survives four storms, and escapes an island after being there for 28 years! 

The next book is called Utopia, which was written by Thomas More. This book is about a perfect society where everyone lives in perfect peace. In the book there are six thousand houses in each city, sixteen adults in each house, and ninety-six thousand people in each city. These cities build up an army, but they never need to use it because they never start a war. If a war breaks out they are ready, but they don’t start a war. It’s funny, because Utopia literally means “no place”. The optimism in this book is that everything is perfect, which doesn’t exist on earth, but one day Jesus will return and everything will be perfect again. 

I think that you know who William Shakespeare is. If you don’t, I will give you a recap of his play Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet meet each other at a party, but they’re families are rivals. Romeo and Juliet secretly get married, because they know their family would hate if the did. Romeo goes on a trip and while he’s on this trip, Juliet’s father arranges for her to get married. The pope that married Romeo and Juliet gave Juliet a potion that will make her seem dead. The pope sent someone to tell Romeo of this scheme, but of course the man was late.  Romeo heard of Juliet’s death, bought poison, went to her grave, and killed himself. When Juliet wakes up and sees that Romeo is dead, she stabs herself. The families are now extremely angry, so the pope finally tells them about the marriage. In the end the families unite. So where’s the optimism? First, the families only unite after it looks like Romeo and Juliet killed each other. Second, the pope could have saved the two if he had just told the families, but instead he let them die first.

William Shakespeare also wrote Taming of the Shrew. This is about a very wealthy man who has two daughters. The youngest daughter is beautiful, kind, and easy to love. The older daughter is beautiful, harsh, and has a sharp tongue, No one wants to marry her, but no one can marry the younger daughter until the older one is married. A man comes to marry the older one and does, but has a hard time when he does. The man teaches her to obey him and to control her tongue. She learns to obey him and he even makes bets with other men to find out which of their wives are more obedient, he wins. Where is the optimism in this story? The man plans to make money off having an obedient wife, even though he doesn’t know if he can train her. Like most story’s,  things turn out well even though no one knows if it will. I don’t know if all of Shakespeare’s plays have optimism, because I only read a few, but these do. 

I have read many books in my lifetime. Some for school and some for fun, but I’ve realized something over the years. Almost every book that I’ve read ends with a happy ending or a cliffhanger. I don’t know about you, but over the years all the happy endings have gotten on my nerves. I want to read a book with a sad ending for once. People like books with optimism because of the happy endings and so do I, but I want to read a book with no optimism and se if I like it. Although, I think that every book has at least a  little optimism in it. There are many more books that I can right about, but I don’t know If you would like to read much more than this, so I kept it short. I hope this essay helped you and please read more. 

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