Summary: Chapter 17

Cacambo and Candide continue to travel, but their horses die and their food runs out. They find an abandoned canoe and row down a river, hoping to find signs of civilization. After a day, their canoe smashes against some rocks.

Cacambo and Candide make their way to a village, where they find children playing with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. When the village schoolmaster calls the children, they leave the jewels on the ground. Candide tries to give the jewels to the schoolmaster, but the schoolmaster merely throws them back to the ground.

Cacambo and Candide visit the village inn, which looks like a European palace. The people inside speak Cacambo’s native language. Cacambo and Candide eat a grand meal and try to pay for it with two large gold pieces they picked up off the ground. The landlord laughs at them for trying to give him “pebbles.” Moreover, the government maintains all inns for free. Candide believes that this is the place in the world where everything is for the best.

Summary: Chapter 18

Cacambo and Candide go to see the village sage, a 172-year-old man. The sage explains that his people have vowed never to leave their kingdom, which is called Eldorado. High mountains surround the kingdom, so no outsiders can get in, making Eldorado safe from European conquests. They also have a God whom they thank every day for giving them what they need. No religious persecution occurs because everyone agrees about everything.

Cacambo and Candide visit the king. They embrace him according to customs explained by one of his servants, and such familiarity and equality of address with a monarch shocks them. Candide asks to see the courts and prisons and learns there are none. Rather, there are schools devoted to the sciences and philosophy.

After a month, Candide decides that he cannot stay in Eldorado as long as Cunégonde is not there. He decides to take as many Eldorado “pebbles” with him as he can. The king considers the plan foolish, but sets his architects to work building a machine to lift Candide, Cacambo, and 102 swift sheep loaded down with jewels out of the deep valley. Candide hopes to pay Don Fernando for Cunégonde and buy a kingdom for himself.

Summary: Chapter 19

Cacambo and Candide lose all but two sheep as they travel to Surinam, but the last two sheep still carry a sizable fortune. Cacambo and Candide meet a slave on the road who is missing a leg and a hand. The slave tells them that his own mother sold him to his cruel master, Vanderdendur. He tells them of the misery of slavery, and his words prompt Candide to renounce Pangloss’s optimism.

Candide sends Cacambo to retrieve Cunégonde and the old woman. Meanwhile, Candide tries to secure passage to Venice, and Vanderdendur offers his ship. When Candide readily agrees to Vanderdendur’s high price, Vanderdendur deduces that Candide’s sheep are carrying a fortune. Candide puts his sheep on board in advance, and Vanderdendur sails off without him, taking much of Candide’s fortune.

Candide, at great expense, tries but fails to obtain compensation through the legal system. He then books passage on a ship sailing for France and announces that he will pay passage plus a good sum of money to the most unhappy man in the province. Out of the crowd of applicants, Candide chooses a scholar who was robbed by his wife, beaten by his son, and forsaken by his daughter.

Analysis: Chapters 17–19

Eldorado is Voltaire’s utopia, featuring no organized religion and no religious persecution. None of the inhabitants attempts to force beliefs on others, no one is imprisoned, and the king greets visitors as his equals. The kingdom has an advanced educational system and poverty is nonexistent. This world is clearly the best of the worlds represented in Candide and seems to be the “best of all possible worlds” in which Pangloss believes.

However, Voltaire’s deep pessimism about human nature shines through the glittering portrait of the harmonious, utopian society of Eldorado. The word “utopia,” coined by Sir Thomas More in his book of the same name, sounds like the Greek words for both “good place” and “no place.” For the suffering inhabitants of the real world, Eldorado might as well not exist. It is almost completely inaccessible from the outside. Riches enough to end world poverty lie untouched on the ground. Its residents refuse to initiate any contact with the outside world because they know that such contact would destroy their perfect country. After some time there, even Candide wants to return immediately to the deeply flawed world outside. The Eldorado “pebbles” will only be of value to him in the outside world. The jewels that make Eldorado beautiful serve to inspire greed and ambition in Candide, whose only previous interests have been survival and his love for Cunégonde.

The fortune that Candide obtains in Eldorado brings him more problems than advantages. He quickly discovers that riches make him into a target for all sorts of swindlers, as Vanderdendur and the Surinamese officers swiftly work to get as much money from Candide as they can. Before he becomes wealthy, Candide still repeatedly finds cause to endorse Pangloss’s optimism. After he acquires wealth, however, the fierce blows he suffers shatter his confidence in optimism. Financial injury inspires more pessimism in him than violence ever did. His decision to listen to countless stories of woe and to reward the most miserable man is reminiscent of the old woman’s behavior on the trip to America, during which she asked the other passengers to recite their sad tales. This indicates that perhaps Candide identifies more with the old woman’s world-weary pessimism now that he has had money. By suggesting that Candide is sorrier to see his money disappear than he was to see his blood shed, Voltaire also comments on the hopeless irrationality of human priorities and on the power of greed.

Candide’s attempt to acquire a companion for his voyage reveals the futility of trying to compensate someone for misery and suffering. There are so many miserable people in the world that giving away a little bit of money does virtually nothing to reduce this overall misery. Voltaire implies that the basis for misery is the social structure itself, which needs to be changed before any real compensation can occur.

Candide’s new pessimism also owes something to his conversation with the slave whom he encounters on the road to Surinam. Voltaire illustrates social injustice and systematic cruelty many times in the novel. However, many of these situations, such as Candide’s conscription into the Bulgar army and the consumption of the old woman’s buttock, are exaggerated, absurd, or even comical. The slave’s life story, on the other hand, is quite realistic and has no element of humor to it. In dealing with slavery, Voltaire comes up against an evil so powerful that even his considerable satiric wit cannot make light of it.