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Candide

Voltaire

Plot Overview

Context

Character List

Candide is the illegitimate nephew of a German baron. He grows up in the baron’s castle under the tutelage of the scholar Pangloss, who teaches him that this world is “the best of all possible worlds.” Candide falls in love with the baron’s young daughter, Cunégonde. The baron catches the two kissing and expels Candide from his home. On his own for the first time, Candide is soon conscripted into the army of the Bulgars. He wanders away from camp for a brief walk, and is brutally flogged as a deserter. After witnessing a horrific battle, he manages to escape and travels to Holland.

In Holland, a kindly Anabaptist named Jacques takes Candide in. Candide runs into a deformed beggar and discovers that it is Pangloss. Pangloss explains that he has contracted syphilis and that Cunégonde and her family have all been brutally murdered by the Bulgar army. Nonetheless, he maintains his optimistic outlook. Jacques takes Pangloss in as well. The three travel to Lisbon together, but before they arrive their ship runs into a storm and Jacques is drowned. Candide and Pangloss arrive in Lisbon to find it destroyed by an earthquake and under the control of the Inquisition. Pangloss is soon hanged as a heretic, and Candide is flogged for listening with approval to Pangloss’s philosophy. After his beating, an old woman dresses Candide’s wounds and then, to his astonishment, takes him to Cunégonde. Cunégonde explains that though the Bulgars killed the rest of her family, she was merely raped and then captured by a captain, who sold her to a Jew named Don Isaachar. At present, she is a sex slave jointly owned by Don Isaachar and the Grand Inquisitor of Lisbon. Each of Cunégonde’s two owners arrive in turn as she and Candide are talking, and Candide kills them both. Terrified, Candide, the old woman, and Cunégonde flee and board a ship bound for South America. During their journey, the old woman relates her own story. She was born the Pope’s daughter but has suffered a litany of misfortunes that include rape, enslavement, and cannibalism.

Candide and Cunégonde plan to marry, but as soon as they arrive in Buenos Aires, the governor, Don Fernando, proposes to Cunégonde. Thinking of her own financial welfare, she accepts. Authorities looking for the murderer of the Grand Inquisitor arrive from Portugal in pursuit of Candide. Along with a newly acquired valet named Cacambo, Candide flees to territory controlled by Jesuits who are revolting against the Spanish government. After demanding an audience with a Jesuit commander, Candide discovers that the commander is Cunégonde’s brother, the baron, who also managed to escape from the Bulgars. Candide announces that he plans to marry Cunégonde, but the baron insists that his sister will never marry a commoner. Enraged, Candide runs the baron through with his sword. He and Cacambo escape into the wilderness, where they narrowly avoid being eaten by a native tribe called the Biglugs.

After traveling for days, Candide and Cacambo find themselves in the land of Eldorado, where gold and jewels litter the streets. This utopian country has advanced scientific knowledge, no religious conflict, no court system, and places no value on its plentiful gold and jewels. But Candide longs to return to Cunégonde, and after a month in Eldorado he and Cacambo depart with countless invaluable jewels loaded onto swift pack sheep. When they reach the territory of Surinam, Candide sends Cacambo to Buenos Aires with instructions to use part of the fortune to purchase Cunégonde from Don Fernando and then to meet him in Venice. An unscrupulous merchant named Vanderdendur steals much of Candide’s fortune, dampening his optimism somewhat. Frustrated, Candide sails off to France with a specially chosen companion, an unrepentantly pessimistic scholar named Martin. On the way there, he recovers part of his fortune when a Spanish captain sinks Vanderdendur’s ship. Candide takes this as proof that there is justice in the world, but Martin staunchly disagrees.

In Paris, Candide and Martin mingle with the social elite. Candide’s fortune attracts a number of hangers-on, several of whom succeed in filching jewels from him. Candide and Martin proceed to Venice, where, to Candide’s dismay, Cunégonde and Cacambo are nowhere to be found. However, they do encounter other colorful individuals there, including Paquette, the chambermaid-turned-prostitute who gave Pangloss syphilis, and Count Pococurante, a wealthy Venetian who is hopelessly bored with the cultural treasures that surround him. Eventually, Cacambo, now a slave of a deposed Turkish monarch, surfaces. He explains that Cunégonde is in Constantinople, having herself been enslaved along with the old woman. Martin, Cacambo, and Candide depart for Turkey, where Candide purchases Cacambo’s freedom.

Candide discovers Pangloss and the baron in a Turkish chain gang. Both have actually survived their apparent deaths and, after suffering various misfortunes, arrived in Turkey. Despite everything, Pangloss remains an optimist. An overjoyed Candide purchases their freedom, and he and his growing retinue go on to find Cunégonde and the old woman. Cunégonde has grown ugly since Candide last saw her, but he purchases her freedom anyway. He also buys the old woman’s freedom and purchases a farm outside of Constantinople. He keeps his longstanding promise to marry Cunégonde, but only after being forced to send the baron, who still cannot abide his sister marrying a commoner, back to the chain gang. Candide, Cunégonde, Cacambo, Pangloss, and the old woman settle into a comfortable life on the farm but soon find themselves growing bored and quarrelsome. Finally, Candide encounters a farmer who lives a simple life, works hard, and avoids vice and leisure. Inspired, Candide and his friends take to cultivating a garden in earnest. All their time and energy goes into the work, and none is left over for philosophical speculation. At last everyone is fulfilled and happy.

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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

2 Comments

24 out of 44 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.

Jacques

0 Comments

1 out of 2 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

1 Comments

14 out of 19 people found this helpful

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