A Franciscan friar steals Cunégonde’s jewels. Despite his agreement with Pangloss’s philosophy that “the fruits of the earth are a common heritage of all,” Candide nonetheless laments the loss. Candide and Cunégonde sell one horse and travel to Cadiz, where they find troops preparing to sail to the New World. Paraguayan Jesuit priests have incited an Indian tribe to rebel against the kings of Spain and Portugal. Candide demonstrates his military experience to the general, who promptly makes him a captain. Candide takes Cunégonde, the old woman, and the horses with him, and predicts that it is the New World that will prove to be the best of all possible worlds. But Cunégonde claims to have suffered so much that she has almost lost all hope. The old woman admonishes Cunégonde for complaining because Cunégonde has not suffered as much as she has.
Readers have proposed various interpretations of Jacques’s death. His death could represent Voltaire’s criticism of the optimistic belief that evil is always balanced by good. Jacques, who is good, perishes while saving the sailor, who is selfish and evil; the result is not a balance but a case of evil surviving good. Jacques’s death could also represent the uselessness of Christian values. Continually referred to as “the Anabaptist,” Jacques is an altruist who does not change society for the better; he ends up a victim of his own altruism.
Pangloss responds to Jacques’s death by asserting that the bay outside Lisbon had been formed “expressly for this Anabaptist to drown in.” This argument is a parody of the complacent reasoning of optimistic philosophers. Convinced that the world God created must necessarily be perfectly planned and executed, optimists end up drawing far-fetched and unlikely connections between apparently unrelated events, such as the formation of a bay and the drowning of Jacques.
Voltaire bases the earthquake in Candide on an actual historical event that affected him deeply. A devastating earthquake on November 1, 1755—All Saints’ Day—leveled Lisbon and killed over 30,000 people, many of whom died while praying in church. The earthquake challenged a number of Enlightenment thinkers’ optimistic views of the world.
The sailor’s debauchery amid the groans of the wounded represents indifference in the face of evil. Voltaire strongly condemned indifference, and his belief that human inaction allows suffering to continue is evident in his depictions of the sailor and Pangloss. At one point, when Candide is knocked down by rubble and begs Pangloss to bring him wine and oil, Pangloss ignores Candide’s request and rambles on about the causes and ultimate purpose of the earthquake. Voltaire proposes a fundamental similarity between Pangloss’s behavior and the sailor’s actions. The sailor’s sensual indulgence in the face of death is grotesque and inhumane. While less grotesque, Pangloss’s philosophizing is no better, because it too gets in the way of any meaningful, useful response to the disaster.
The auto-da-fé, or act of faith, was the Inquisition’s practice of burning heretics alive. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the officials of the Inquisition systematically tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people on the slightest suspicion of heresy against orthodox Christian doctrine. Jews, Protestants, Muslims, and accused witches were victims of this organized campaign of violence. Like many Enlightenment intellectuals, Voltaire was appalled by the barbarism and superstition of the Inquisition, and by the religious fervor that inspired it.