Why does Candide ultimately marry Cunégonde?

While Candide spends the vast majority of the novel pursuing the young and beautiful Cunégonde he once knew, the woman he ultimately marries is ugly and unpleasant after enduring years of suffering. He loses his desire to marry Cunégonde upon seeing her, but her pleas and the Baron’s refusal to allow the relationship render the easily manipulated Candide incapable of going back on his word. This moment is particularly anticlimactic as the reality of Cunégonde’s situation highlights the absurd nature of Candide’s idealistic perspective.

What does Candide mean by “cultivate our garden”?

In the final moments of the novel, Candide takes the Turkish farmer’s words to heart and emphasizes to his companions that they “must cultivate [their] garden.” Most literally, Candide suggests that they work together to build an honest livelihood through farming. The image of cultivating a garden, however, also functions on a symbolic level to emphasize the importance of actively working toward a happy and successful life rather than assuming that the universe is inherently good. This labor provides the group with a sense of purpose and shelters them from the inevitable suffering of the outside world.

How does Candide reflect Enlightenment principles?

The Enlightenment was a movement of radical thinking based on rationality and pragmatism which spread throughout Europe in the 18th century, and as one of the movement’s major voices, Voltaire incorporated many topics of the era into Candide. The novel serves most explicitly as a critique of Leibnizian optimism, a philosophy developed by idealist thinker Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz which argues that God created the best world possible for mankind. Beyond this challenge to the era’s interest in understanding the nature of goodness, Voltaire also uses Candide to critique religious authority as well as the notion that governments act in their citizens’ best interest. Candide meets a number of corrupt spiritual leaders throughout his journey and often encounters brutal acts of violence that achieve nothing.