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Chapters 20–23

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Chapters 20–23

Chapters 20–23

Chapters 20–23

Chapters 20–23

In telling the story of his life, Martin refers to two religious ideologies. He claims that the Surinamese clergy persecuted him because they thought he was a Socinian. The Socinians were a Christian sect formed during the Reformation. They rejected the divinity of Christ, the trinity, and original sin. They greatly influenced Enlightenment thought and aided in the formation of the ideology of the Unitarian Universalist church. The Surinamese clergy were, however, mistaken in their understanding of Martin’s “heresy.” Martin claims that he is not a Socinian, but a “Manichee.” Manichaeism is an ancient religion founded by the sage Mani. The Manichaeans see the universe in terms of the dual forces of good and evil. They believe that these two forces are equally powerful in the world and are continually in conflict. Manichaeans believe that through spiritual knowledge, human beings can conquer the evil side of their natures. Christians, whose doctrines hinge on a belief in a good and all-powerful god who is more powerful than the evil represented by Satan, fiercely reject Manichaeism. The precepts of Manichaeism also directly conflict with Pangloss’s optimism, since a world dominated in part by evil cannot be perfect or perfectible.

For the remainder of the novel, Martin’s ideas provide an enlightening counterexample to the beliefs espoused by Pangloss and Candide. In general, Martin’s arguments seem more reasonable and compelling than Candide’s renditions of Pangloss’s ideas. But, like Pangloss, Martin believes so firmly in his own view of the world that he occasionally dismisses real evidence that contradicts his philosophy, thereby discrediting it. For example, in Chapter 24, Martin asserts that Cacambo has certainly run off with Candide’s money, and according to Martin’s cynical opinion of human nature, there is no way Cacambo could do otherwise. In reality, however, Cacambo remains loyal to Candide, even though he does not stand to gain anything. Like Pangloss’s optimism, Martin’s pessimism is based too heavily on abstract speculation and dogmatic belief, and not enough on empirical evidence. Voltaire personally may have found ideas like Martin’s philosophy more credible, but he does not endorse them entirely in his writing. Absolute pessimism, Voltaire seems to say, is as short-sighted and self-defeating as absolute optimism.

In Chapter 22, Voltaire indulges in some relatively good-natured satire of his native country. Voltaire wrote Candide after he had been in exile for several years, and his portrait of the Parisian character, while quite condemnatory, has a ring of intimacy to it. He describes the gambling, sexual license, theater, and debauchery of the city in colorful detail. The xenophobia that the abbé exploits to rob Candide and that forces Candide to leave the country is perhaps meant to represent the intellectual intolerance that also forced Voltaire out of his homeland.

Voltaire’s portrayal of the English demonstrates the range of his critical eye. He was generally very admiring of English government and culture and considered England the most progressive nation in Europe. However, Voltaire does not attempt to portray England as a perfect, or even a good, place. With his depiction of the admiral’s execution, Voltaire acknowledges that even the country he most admires subscribes to the same ridiculous, irrational logic and the same barbaric practices that are found in every other place on earth.

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Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 20–23 Quiz



What do Candide and Martin see en route to Bordeaux?
A battle between ships
The Aurora Borealis
Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 20–23 Quiz

Chapters 20–23 QUIZ

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Adam and Eve

by sary56, August 20, 2013

"Moreover, in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve enjoyed the fruits of nature without having to work..."
I don't think that's true. Genesis 2:15 says, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." Adam's purpose was to work even before the fall, which happens in Genesis 3. Also, I don't believe that Adam and Eve fell from God's grace. Yes, God said "you shall surely die" if you eat of the fruit, and they did, but it was actually God's grace that made them go out of the garden to prevent them from li... Read more


42 out of 71 people found this helpful

Life life

by Jekemi, January 05, 2014

What I got from this book is that whether Panglos is right or not. Whether Pessimism or Optimism prevailed, it doesn't do any good to philosophy over it.
Man was placed in the garden to work, not to be idle.

I believe that in the end Candide gave up on arguing - he simply realised the pointlessness of doing it and that true happiness will be by living life without thinking about it the whole time.

Thanks for your post.



3 out of 4 people found this helpful

This Book is About...

by AlexM4ck, April 30, 2014

Honestly I don't think this book has anything to do with religion, right or wrong. Any type of theorizing, philosophy, formal religion, or even societal emphasis on what is important is represented as something negative. For example, all church figures are corrupt, philosophers Pangloss and Martin no matter what their opinions are either ignorant or miserable. The happiest (and eventually model) character is the farmer, who thinks and works for himself. Voltaire was jaded by the corruption of religion and hopeless optimism of philosophy and ... Read more


38 out of 47 people found this helpful

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