Summary: Chapter 20

Candide still has a little money and a few jewels, and hopes to use what he has to recover Cunégonde. His love and remaining fortune momentarily renew his faith in Pangloss’s philosophy. Martin the scholar, on the other hand, maintains that God has abandoned the world because men kill and maim one another everywhere. En route to Bordeaux, Martin and Candide watch a battle between two ships. One ship sinks and its crew perishes. Candide finds his sheep in the water and realizes that the defeated ship belonged to Vanderdendur. Candide claims that there is some good in the world because Vanderdendur has met with just punishment, but Martin asks why Vanderdendur’s crew had to die with him.

Summary: Chapter 21

When the coast of France is in sight, Candide asks Martin if he has ever been to Paris. Martin says he has, and describes his previous encounters with the French and his disgust at what he calls their lack of manners. Candide asks Martin why the world was made, and Martin replies, “To make us mad.” Candide then asks Martin if he believes that men have always done evil things to one another. Martin replies with a question, asking Candide if hawks have always eaten pigeons. When Candide answers yes, Martin counters that if the rest of nature’s beasts do not change, then men do not either. Candide disagrees, claiming that men have free will.

Summary: Chapter 22

The ship arrives in France, and Candide buys a carriage so that he and Martin can continue to travel together. They decide to visit Paris, but Candide becomes ill upon arriving at their hotel. Candide wears a large diamond on his hand that attracts a great number of new friends, including two physicians, who force their services on him. The physicians only succeed in making Candide sicker. Candide and Martin meet an abbé of Perigord and play cards with him and his friends. The other players cheat, and Candide loses a great deal of money. The abbé takes Candide and Martin to visit the Marquise of Parolignac. While there, Candide argues with a philosopher about whether everything is for the best in this world. The philosopher states that the world is in a state of “unending warfare.” The Marquise seduces Candide and steals his jeweled rings.

By manipulating Candide, the abbé learns that Candide has not received a letter from Cunégonde. The next morning, Candide receives a letter signed “Cunégonde” with the news that she is ill in Paris and wishes him to visit her. Candide and Martin are conducted into a dark room. The maidservant explains that Candide may not view Cunégonde because light would be harmful to her. Candide gives diamonds and gold to the woman he believes to be Cunégonde. The abbé arrives with a squad of officers and orders Martin and Candide arrested as “suspicious strangers.” Candide bribes an officer with diamonds, and the officer lets them go. The officer’s brother, after being given more diamonds, puts Candide and Martin on a ship bound for England.

Summary: Chapter 23

When the ship is near shore, Martin and Candide witness the execution of an admiral. They learn that England executes admirals periodically to encourage the rest of the fleet to fight harder, and that this particular admiral was sentenced to death for failing to incite his men to get closer to the enemy during a battle with the French in Canada. Candide refuses to set foot in England and arranges for the captain of the ship to take him to Venice, where he is certain he will be reunited with Cunégonde.

—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?

See Important Quotations Explained

Analysis: Chapters 20–23

Martin is a foil to Pangloss. He does not believe that everything is for the best in this world, nor does he believe in some natural “good.” He acknowledges the evil side of human nature. For Martin, the presence of evil in the world does not inspire convoluted logical justification. Candide tries to counter Martin’s arguments by citing the idea of free will. However, free will does not solve the dilemma of the presence of evil in a world created by a perfectly good, omniscient, omnipotent Christian God.

In telling the story of his life, Martin refers to two religious ideologies. He claims that the Surinamese clergy persecuted him because they thought he was a Socinian. The Socinians were a Christian sect formed during the Reformation. They rejected the divinity of Christ, the trinity, and original sin. They greatly influenced Enlightenment thought and aided in the formation of the ideology of the Unitarian Universalist church. The Surinamese clergy were, however, mistaken in their understanding of Martin’s “heresy.” Martin claims that he is not a Socinian, but a “Manichee.” Manichaeism is an ancient religion founded by the sage Mani. The Manichaeans see the universe in terms of the dual forces of good and evil. They believe that these two forces are equally powerful in the world and are continually in conflict. Manichaeans believe that through spiritual knowledge, human beings can conquer the evil side of their natures. Christians, whose doctrines hinge on a belief in a good and all-powerful god who is more powerful than the evil represented by Satan, fiercely reject Manichaeism. The precepts of Manichaeism also directly conflict with Pangloss’s optimism, since a world dominated in part by evil cannot be perfect or perfectible.

For the remainder of the novel, Martin’s ideas provide an enlightening counterexample to the beliefs espoused by Pangloss and Candide. In general, Martin’s arguments seem more reasonable and compelling than Candide’s renditions of Pangloss’s ideas. But, like Pangloss, Martin believes so firmly in his own view of the world that he occasionally dismisses real evidence that contradicts his philosophy, thereby discrediting it. For example, in Chapter 24, Martin asserts that Cacambo has certainly run off with Candide’s money, and according to Martin’s cynical opinion of human nature, there is no way Cacambo could do otherwise. In reality, however, Cacambo remains loyal to Candide, even though he does not stand to gain anything. Like Pangloss’s optimism, Martin’s pessimism is based too heavily on abstract speculation and dogmatic belief, and not enough on empirical evidence. Voltaire personally may have found ideas like Martin’s philosophy more credible, but he does not endorse them entirely in his writing. Absolute pessimism, Voltaire seems to say, is as short-sighted and self-defeating as absolute optimism.

In Chapter 22, Voltaire indulges in some relatively good-natured satire of his native country. Voltaire wrote Candide after he had been in exile for several years, and his portrait of the Parisian character, while quite condemnatory, has a ring of intimacy to it. He describes the gambling, sexual license, theater, and debauchery of the city in colorful detail. The xenophobia that the abbé exploits to rob Candide and that forces Candide to leave the country is perhaps meant to represent the intellectual intolerance that also forced Voltaire out of his homeland.

Voltaire’s portrayal of the English demonstrates the range of his critical eye. He was generally very admiring of English government and culture and considered England the most progressive nation in Europe. However, Voltaire does not attempt to portray England as a perfect, or even a good, place. With his depiction of the admiral’s execution, Voltaire acknowledges that even the country he most admires subscribes to the same ridiculous, irrational logic and the same barbaric practices that are found in every other place on earth.