The enormous riches which this rascal had stolen were sunk beside him in the sea, and nothing was saved but a single sheep. —You see, said Candide to Martin, crime is punished sometimes; this scoundrel of a Dutch merchant has met the fate he deserved. —Yes, said Martin; but did the passengers aboard his ship have to perish too? God punished the scoundrel, the devil drowned the others.

In Chapter 20, Candide and Martin engage in this debate over the sinking of Vanderdendur’s ship. Candide, who tries throughout the novel to find support for Pangloss’s optimistic faith in the workings of the world, sees Vanderdendur’s fate as a sign that justice is sometimes served by disasters such as shipwrecks, and thus that these disasters serve a higher purpose. Martin, the consummate pessimist, points out quite reasonably that there is no just reason why the other people on Vanderdendur’s ship had to die along with him. Martin interprets the event as the product of both God’s justice and the devil’s cruel mischief. Implied in this statement is the pessimistic idea that the devil’s hand is just as evident in the world as God’s, and the subversive idea that God and the devil inadvertently cooperate in determining the course of human affairs.