On the way to Constantinople with Cacambo and his master, Candide and Martin learn that Cacambo bought Cunégonde and the old woman from Don Fernando, but that a pirate abducted them and sold them as slaves. Cunégonde has grown horribly ugly, but Candide resolves to love her anyway. Candide purchases Cacambo’s freedom. Upon arriving in Turkey, Candide recognizes two galley slaves as the baron and Pangloss. Candide also buys their freedom.
While the group travels to rescue Cunégonde, the baron and Pangloss tell their stories. The baron bears no ill will toward Candide for stabbing him. After his wound healed, Spanish troops attacked him and sent him to jail in Buenos Aires. The baron eventually returned to Rome to serve his Jesuit order, but was caught bathing naked with a young Turkish man and sent to the galleys.
The executioner who was to hang Pangloss was inexperienced in hangings and made the noose badly, so Pangloss survived. A surgeon bought Pangloss’s body for dissection. Pangloss regained consciousness after being cut open, and the startled surgeon sewed him closed again. Pangloss then traveled to Constantinople. He entered a mosque and saw a pretty young woman drop her nosegay from her bosom. Pangloss picked it up and returned it to her bosom “with the most respectful attentions.” Her male companion thought he was taking too long with it, so he had Pangloss arrested. Pangloss was then whipped and sent to the galleys. However, he still believes that pre-established harmony is the “finest notion in the world.”
Candide purchases the old woman, Cunégonde, and a small farm. Cunégonde reminds Candide of his promise to marry her. Though horrified by her ugliness, Candide does not dare refuse. However, the baron again declares that he will not live to see his sister marry beneath her rank.
I should like to know which is worse, being raped a hundred times by negro pirates . . . or . . . just sitting here and doing nothing?
Pangloss draws up a formal treatise declaring that the baron has no rights over his sister. Martin is in favor of drowning the baron. Cacambo suggests that they return the baron to the galleys without telling Cunégonde, and that is the course they choose.
Cunégonde grows uglier and more disagreeable every day. Cacambo works in the garden of the small farm. He hates the work and curses his fate. Pangloss is unhappy because he has no chance of becoming an important figure in a German university. Martin is patient because he imagines that in any other situation he would be equally unhappy. They all debate philosophy while the misery of the world continues. Pangloss still maintains that everything is for the best but no longer truly believes it. Paquette and Giroflée arrive at the farm, having squandered the money Candide gave them. They are still unhappy, and Paquette is still a prostitute.
The group consults a famous dervish (Muslim holy man) about questions of good and evil. The dervish rebukes them for caring about such questions and shuts the door in their faces. Later, the group stops at a roadside farm. The farmer kindly invites them to a pleasant dinner. He only has a small farm, but he and his family work hard on it and live a tolerable existence.
Candide finds the farmer’s life appealing. He, Cunégonde, and his friends decide to follow it, and everyone is satisfied by hard work in the garden. Pangloss suggests to Candide once again that this is the best of possible worlds. Candide responds, “That is very well put . . . but we must cultivate our garden.”
—Let’s work without speculating, said Martin; it’s the only way of rendering life bearable.
The far-fetched resurrections of Pangloss and the baron can be read optimistically or pessimistically. On the one hand, two events that gave Candide great grief, the death of his teacher and his own murder of his old friend, have been reversed in an almost miraculous fashion. Candide’s most impossible wish has come true. On the other hand, even the fulfillment of that wish brings Candide no real happiness. In fact, the baron actively works to thwart Candide’s happiness. Additionally, even near-death experiences and imprisonment have done nothing to alter Pangloss’s shallow optimism and the baron’s brutish snobbery. Pangloss represents human folly and the baron represents human arrogance, and Voltaire seems to be saying that neither ever really dies.
While Candide’s optimism has fluctuated during his travels, Pangloss’s has remained static, despite the fact that he has arguably fared far worse than his pupil. Pangloss desires consistency in his thinking, an aspiration that seems rational. However, Pangloss’s version of consistency involves an irrational refusal to denounce his excessively optimistic philosophy despite the terrible situations he has encountered. Pangloss no longer even really believes his own words, but he refuses to incorporate his new knowledge into his philosophy. For him, the idea is more important and attractive than reality. The hopeless rigidity of Pangloss’s thought is sharply and concisely illustrated by this exchange:
—Well, my dear Pangloss, Candide said to him, now that you have been hanged, dissected, beaten to a pulp, and sentenced to the galleys, do you still think everything is for the best in this world? —I am still of my first opinion, replied Pangloss; for after all I am a philosopher, and it would not be right for me to recant since Leibniz could not possibly be wrong, and besides pre-established harmony is the finest notion in the world.
Money, leisure, security, peace, and life with his beloved do not make Candide happy. Martin declares that humans are bound to live “either in convulsions of misery or in the lethargy of boredom.” The way out of this dilemma, it seems, lies in the lifestyle of the farmer and in Candide’s garden. Candide manages to find a tolerable existence through self-directed improvement and work. Practical action is the only solution Voltaire can find to the problem of human suffering. Each member of the household finds a skill to hone and then uses it to contribute to the support of the household. Without any leisure from their toil in the garden, the characters have no time or energy to trade empty words about good and evil. Candide’s new solution seems to alleviate some of their suffering. Pangloss points out that the garden in which everyone finds solace is reminiscent of the biblical Garden of Eden, but there are crucial differences. The characters of Candide are ending their adventures in a garden, not beginning them there as Adam and Eve did; and instead of enjoying the free bounty of nature as Adam and Eve did, they must work tirelessly in order to reap any benefits from their garden.
The sincerity of Voltaire’s endorsement of this solution is questionable. It seems unlikely that, after having poked malicious fun at countless belief systems, Voltaire should decide to give his readers an unqualified happy ending. The characters finally realize their desires, but misery still reigns in the world outside their garden. Candide and his friends are wealthy and secure—in a perfect position to try to change the world for the better. Yet, rather than engaging the world in an attempt to improve it, they withdraw from it in an attempt to escape their own petty unhappiness. Voltaire, who became very active in political and social causes later in his life, may see withdrawal into a garden as the only wise and viable solution for creatures as weak as human beings. However, it is unlikely that he sees it as the best of all possible solutions.
"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→
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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.
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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→
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