by: Voltaire


Martin acts as both foil and counterpart to Pangloss. He is more believable than the other major characters in the novel, not because he is more complex, but because he is more intelligent and more likely to draw conclusions with which we can identify. A scholar who has suffered personal and financial setbacks, Martin is as extreme a pessimist as Pangloss is an optimist. He even takes issue with Candide’s statement that “there is some good” in the world. Direct experience plays a greater part in Martin’s estimation of the world than it does in Pangloss’s. As a result, he is able to provide insight into events far beyond Pangloss’s ability to do so. Martin demonstrates such insight when he predicts that Giroflée and Paquette will not be happier for having money and when he analyzes the psychology of Count Pococurante.

Though Martin’s philosophy is more effective and honest than Pangloss’s, it also has some of the same flaws. While Martin is usually good at predicting how people will behave, he fails noticeably with Cacambo. Martin’s absolute pessimism dictates that a valet trusted with millions in gold will certainly betray his master, yet Cacambo’s honesty defies that pessimism. Voltaire prefers flexible philosophies based on real evidence to dogmatic assertions based on abstractions. Absolute optimism and absolute pessimism both fall into the latter category, because they will admit no exceptions. Like Pangloss, Martin abides by ideas that discourage any active efforts to change the world for the better. If, as Martin asserts, “man [is] bound to live either in convulsions of misery or in the lethargy of boredom,” why should anyone try to rescue anyone else from “convulsions of misery”?