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Candide

Voltaire
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Candide, or Optimism

author  Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet)

type of work  Novel

genre  Satire; adventure novel

language  French

time and place written  Schwetzingen, Prussia; and Geneva, Switzerland; 17581759

date of first publication  January or February, 1759

publisher  Gabriel Cramer

narrator  Anonymous satirical narrator

point of view  The narrator speaks in the third person, focusing on the perspective and experiences of Candide. Events and characters are described objectively most of the time. Occasionally, they are described as Candide sees them, but this is always done with an ironic tone.

tone  Ironic; melodramatic

tense  Past and present

setting (time)  1750s

setting (place)  Various real and fictional locations in Europe and South America

protagonist  Candide

major conflict  Candide and Pangloss’s optimistic world view is challenged by numerous disasters; Candide’s love for Cunégonde is repeatedly thwarted.

rising action  Candide is expelled from his home for kissing Cunégonde; he wanders the world attempting to preserve his life and reunite with his beloved.

climax  Candide finds Cunégonde enslaved in Turkey; the two are married.

falling action  Candide, Cunégonde, Pangloss, and their friends struggle with boredom; they find solace in gardening.

themes  The folly of optimism; the uselessness of philosophical speculation; the hypocrisy of religion; the corrupting power of money

motifs  Resurrection; rape; political oppression

symbols  Pangloss; the garden; the Lisbon earthquake

foreshadowing  There is virtually no foreshadowing in this wildly chaotic narrative. Candide’s repeated musings about what Pangloss would think of events foreshadows Pangloss’s “resurrection.”