Summary: Chapter 14
Candide’s new valet Cacambo is fond of his master and urges Candide to follow the old woman’s advice. Cacambo tells Candide not to worry about Cunégonde because God always takes care of women. Cacambo suggests that they fight on the side of the rebellious Paraguayan Jesuits. The two reach the rebel guard and ask to speak to the colonel, but the colonel orders their weapons and their horses seized. A sergeant tells Candide and Cacambo that the colonel does not have time to see them and that the Father Provincial hates Spaniards. He gives them three hours to get out of the province. Cacambo informs the sergeant that Candide is German. The colonel agrees to see him.
Candide and Cacambo are led to the colonel’s lavish pavilion. Their weapons and horses are returned. It turns out that the colonel is Cunégonde’s brother, now the baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh. Candide and the baron embrace one another in tearful joy. Candide reports that Cunégonde also survived the attack and that she is with the governor. While they wait for the Father Provincial, the colonel tells his story.
Summary: Chapter 15
When the Bulgars attacked the castle, the colonel was left unconscious and appeared dead. He was thrown into a cart full of corpses and taken to a Jesuit chapel for burial. A Jesuit sprinkling holy water on the bodies noticed the colonel’s eyes moving, and immediately made arrangements for the colonel’s care. After three weeks the colonel recovered completely. Being a “very pretty boy,” he earned the “tender friendship” of a highly regarded Jesuit and eventually became a Jesuit himself. He was sent to Paraguay, where he became a colonel as well as a priest.
The colonel hopes to bring Cunégonde to Paraguay. Candide says he wishes to do the same because he plans to marry her. This statement infuriates the colonel, as Candide is not of the nobility. Candide claims that he agrees with Pangloss’s statement that all men are equal, and reminds the colonel how much he has done for Cunégonde and how happily she agreed to marry him. The colonel slaps Candide with his sword, and Candide responds by running the colonel through with his own sword. Candide bursts into tears. Cacambo rushes into the room. He dresses Candide in the colonel’s habit, and they flee the pavilion.
Summary: Chapter 16
Candide and Cacambo end up in a strange country with no roads. They see two naked women running in a meadow pursued by two monkeys biting at their legs. Candide hopes he can rescue the women and gain their assistance, and so he kills the monkeys. However, instead of being grateful the women fall to the ground and weep over the dead monkeys. Cacambo informs Candide that the monkeys were the women’s lovers. Candide and Cacambo hide in a thicket where they fall asleep.
They awaken to find themselves bound and surrounded by a tribe of fierce natives known as Biglugs. The Biglugs rejoice, excited that they are going to get revenge on the Jesuits by eating one. Cacambo tells them in their language that Candide is not a Jesuit. He explains that Candide killed a Jesuit and wore the Jesuit habit to escape. He urges the Biglugs to take the habit to the border and ask the guards to confirm the story. The Biglugs do so and discover that Cacambo is telling the truth. They show Candide and Cacambo the greatest hospitality and accompany them to the edge of their territory. Candide affirms his faith in the perfection of the world.
Analysis: Chapters 14–16
In eighteenth-century Europe, the Americas
represented the long-standing promise of a new and brighter future
for mankind. The New World attracted clergy in search of converts,
merchants in search of riches, and countless adventurers in search
of new adventure. In Chapter
By the eighteenth century, however, the dark side of colonization had already emerged. Educated individuals knew about the horrors of slavery, the oppression of natives, and the diseases spread by inter-cultural contact (of which Pangloss’s syphilis is one example). In these chapters and those that follow, Voltaire portrays the Americas as a region thoroughly corrupted by the vices of the Old World.
The rebellion in Paraguay exposes the hypocrisy and scheming of South American politics. The Jesuit priests lead a revolt of native peoples against the Spanish colonial government, yet the Jesuits are not fighting for the right to self-government for these downtrodden natives. The Biglugs’ attitude toward Jesuits makes it clear that the native peoples feel no kinship with the priests who claim to be fighting for them. Instead, the Jesuits merely exploit the rebels in a greedy campaign to grab wealth and power away from the government. The native Paraguayans are the impoverished servants of powerful, wealthy European dissidents, mere pawns in an economic—not ideological—quarrel between Europeans.
In this section, Voltaire seizes another opportunity to mock the hypocrisy of religious leaders and the aristocracy. The colonel tells Candide how a Jesuit priest took him into the order because he found him physically attractive. These leading comments suggest a homosexual relationship between the colonel and his mentor, a situation the Jesuits rigorously and publicly condemned. The colonel’s refusal to allow Candide to marry his sister, even after their emigration to America and after hearing all of what Candide has done for Cunégonde, is another example of European aristocratic arrogance.
The description of the Biglugs can be read as a criticism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy. Rousseau, another important French Enlightenment thinker, was a bitter rival of Voltaire’s. Rousseau viewed man as naturally good and insisted that only the institutions of human civilization, such as property and commerce, corrupt man’s innate goodness. He was interested in the figure of the natural man, whom he called the “noble savage.” Rousseau held that, in a state of nature without the trappings of civilization, human beings would be ignorant of all vice. Voltaire, conversely, was far more pessimistic about human nature. He describes the Biglugs as men in a state of nature, but they are not noble savages ignorant of vice. Rather, they are filled with the same prejudices and brutality as people from the Old World. Like the Inquisitors in Portugal, they kill people based on their religious affiliation, and like the officers in the city of Azov, they are willing to practice cannibalism.
Cacambo is an interesting exception to Voltaire’s bleak view of the New World. Cacambo is of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry, but he has managed to avoid many of the misfortunes that have befallen both groups in the New World. He deals capably with both the Jesuits and the Biglugs and can speak both native and European languages. He suffers fewer gross misfortunes than any other character, less out of luck than because of his sharp wits, and he proves to be unflaggingly loyal and honest. Though Voltaire does not see hope for a new, better world for the European in the Americas, Cacambo seems to represent a different hope: a new, better man who is neither completely of the Old World nor completely of the New, who bases his personality and ability on his understanding and experience of both worlds.
Though Cacambo inspires optimism in others, he himself is no optimist. His wide experience of the world leads him to the same conclusions as the old woman: he tells the Biglugs that “the law of nature teaches us to kill our neighbor, and that’s how men behave the whole world over.”