Introduction to Candide

Candide was written by the leading French enlightenment figure, Voltaire. It was published in French by its title Candide, ou l’Optimisme in 1759. Later, the novella was translated into English under the same title and was published in 1762. It was republished in 1947 under the title of Candide: Optimism. The novella presents the story of a young man, Candide, whose life marks great optimism under the influence of his teacher, Professor Pangloss. Following great trials and tribulations in his life, Candide demonstrates extreme Leibnizian optimism, propagating that we must take care of our own gardens.

Summary of Candide

The story of the novella shows that an illegitimate born young man, Candide, is living in luxury in the castle of his uncle, a German baron. Professor Pangloss, his mentor, teaches him along with his cousin Cunegonde and Young baron. He teaches them and believes in optimistic philosophy and this world is the ‘best of all possible worlds’. Pangloss has an illicit affair with the chambermaid Paquette and Cunegonde see them kissing and wanted to try this on Candide. But Candide was actually in love with his cousin for her beauty and suppresses his feelings.  However, when Candide is engaged in an intimate action with his beloved, the baron finds him and immediately orders his expulsion. Finding himself living upon his own, he joins the Bulgarian army and leaves the camp when he faces arrest for leaving the camp as a deserter and becomes a victim of flogging. However, he escapes the encampment and leaves for the Netherlands.

While living over there with an Anabaptist, named Jacques he comes across a haggard beggar who happens to be Professor Pangloss. He informs that his contact with syphilis has transpired to him and that Candide’s beloved Cunegonde and the family have become a victim of the invading Bulgar army. However, he advises him to stay optimistic, and taking Jacques, the trio goes to Lisbon when their ship is wrecked in the storm where Jacques is drowned saving a sailor. As soon as they land they see that Lisbon city has fallen to the ground due to the earthquake. Adding to the misery  Candide along with his professor face inquisition running rampant against the people of the opposite religion.

Pangloss soon finds himself in hot waters on account of allegations of heresy against him and is sentenced to death, while Candide faces flogging for being his disciple. When Candide comes to his senses after receiving his punishment, he finds an old woman nursing him. Surprisingly, she takes him to his beloved, Cunegonde who explains the genocide of her family and her own rape and disembowelment. She also informs her abduction by a captain, who traded her with Don Issachar. She discloses that now Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor, both are her owners. Soon they arrive on the scene when she is engaged in conversation with her former paramour, Candide. Candide kills both of them and runs for his life, taking his old nurse and his beloved with him, leaving ultimately for South America. The old woman, during their voyage to South America, discloses her true identity as being the daughter of the Pope and her ordeals during her captivity.

Soon all of them reach Buenos Aires, the Argentinian capital, where they plan to marry but the governor, Don Fernando, appears on the scene and starts advances toward Cunegonde. To Candide’s surprise, Cunegonde responds to his advances, thinking of his strong financial position. Soon the Portuguese also arrive, looking for the assassin of the Grand Inquisitor, making Candide flee for his life with Cacambo, a valet who he has newly acquired. When they pass through the Jesuits’ territory, who have raised an insurgency against the Spanish government, Candide comes to know about the commander who happens to be the brother of Cunegonde. In spite of not being able to inherit any of his parents’ fortune and his present condition, Baron still considers himself noble. When Candide announces his plan to marry her, the Baron fiercely opposes him, saying she does not deserve to marry a commoner at which he comes to blow with the Baron and escapes to the wilderness where they have had a close shave with the wild tribe, the Biglugs.

After some time, they reach Eldorado and find jewels and gold aplenty over there. The country is not only very peaceful despite having no judicial system but also highly advanced with freedom from want, poverty, and crime. Soon they pack up llamas with jewels and leave for Surinam where Candide plans to purchase the freedom of Cunegonde from the governor by sendingCacambo to Buenos Aires and Candide to Venice so he can escape from the police search. A shrewd merchant, Vanderdendur, also robs him of his jewels on the way and Candide leaves for France to meet Martin, a pessimist.

Martin’s pessimistic nature amazes Candide and his adherence to Manichaeism an ancient religion that emphasizes the presence of original sin. Martin’s pessimism concludes that ‘man was born to live either in state of distracting inquietude or of lethargic disgust. Traveling with him, he comes across the ship of the same merchant who robbed Candide’s fortune and recovers partial jewels, thinking it a poetic justice that Martin does not believe. From Paris, they leave for Venice after several people plunder their wealth, while they meet several other unique individuals such as Paquette, the chambermaid turned to prostitute who gave Pangloss syphilis, and Count Pococurante, a wealthy merchant bored of his fortune surrounded but Cacambo does not turn up. Finally, they find him serving a Turkish monarch where he informs them that Cunegonde is in Constantinople after which they also set sail for Turkey.

Candide finds his mentor, Pangloss, and the Baron in captivity over there. Pangloss no longer believes in this world is the ‘best of all possible worlds’. He soon buys the freedom of both of them and tries to find Cunegonde and the old nurse. To his astonishment, he finds that Cunegonde has become very ugly and after winning their freedom, he purchases a ranch over there. However, finding her brother’s fierce opposition, Candide is forced to send the Baron back to his owners, and yet he does not marry her while all of them settle down there to live a good life despite meeting tiresome boredom. Living there, they meet a farmer spending a very comfortable life, who becomes an inspiration for Candide for working hard to which he devotes the rest of his life, throwing his passion for philosophy to the winds. So, Candide opts for the philosophy of having no philosophy and tells his people, ‘we must cultivate our garden’ and will be able to find happiness in hard work.

Major Themes in Candide

  1. Optimism: Optimism is the dominant thematic strand and central idea of the novel in that almost all the characters display optimism at one or another time within the storyline. Also, Professor Pangloss fills Candide’s mind with this proposition that there is no “effect without a cause” and that everything has a purpose to serve. Therefore, this optimistic determinism stays with Candide through all of his ordeals, and trials and tribulations. Even when he is in the land of Jesuits or Turkey, he does not lose heart. Even the ugliness of his beloved, Cunegonde does not dishearten him at which the commentary of Pangloss shows that Candide has absorbed this lesson fully that even misfortunes of an individual are for the public welfare.
  2. Free Will: The second central theme of the novel is the use of free will. Although Candide is free to do everything, he does not exercise his free will all the time. First, he uses it at the behest of his mentor, Pangloss, and second, he uses it when asked by his beloved, Cunegonde. He demonstrates the use of free will at several points when conscripted in the army and when leaving it, yet he fails to exercise it fully without the apparent consent or advice of his mentor. However, by the end, he uses his free will when the baron opposes his marriage with his beloved, Cunegonde, for whom he has come afar to find and win freedom for her in Constantinople.
  3. Evil: The novel also sheds light on the concept of evil as an intrinsic part of human nature. In this connection, the character of Pangloss does much in that he contends that although evil could be put into rationalization as the cause and its effects, yet human nature has the specific tendency of showing different facets of evil; such as the barbarism of the Bulgars and humanity of the Jesuits or the old woman or Cacambo. The argument of Voltaire that human beings have a huge ability to commit evil seems correct in different circumstances Candide passes through, proving that malice is pervasive, yet the good is also not lost anywhere as the end of the novel shows.
  4. Pity: The novel shows the thematic strand of pity through the characters of Candide and the old woman, who nurses him to health despite her own deteriorating situation. Also, when Candide comes to know the situation in which Cunegonde finds and informs him about the butchery she has survived, he feels pity not only at her but also later on her surviving brother, the Baron. However, it is another matter that it turns into fierce enmity by the end when the Baron, considering him a commoner, fiercely opposes Candide’s marriage to his sister, Cunegonde. On the other hand, the pity of the old woman on Candide is altruistic and selfless.
  5. Love: Although the major thematic strand of the novel seems to love, it is woven with several other themes such as optimism, pessimism, and survival, yet it rules supreme as it is the only driving passion in Candide that takes him to Turkey and the land of Jesuits and also makes him go after Cunegonde, his beloved. He faces expulsion from Westphalia and separates again from Pangloss due to the latter’s love for Paquette. It seems that the use of women in the novel shows human desire for love as well as physical intimacy that is insatiable as well as soul-satisfying.
  6. Wealth: The novel also proves a critique on wealth as Candide finds himself all alone, his beloved and all of her family murdered only because of the wealth. It drives him to visit El- Dorado and finds that the people disregarding wealth have a better life than the ones who are always after wealth. That is why he takes sheep laden with jewels and riches but when he finds himself at the receiving end, it dawns upon him that keeping wealth is not an easy task. The more wealth you accumulate the lonelier you get.
  7. Religion: The novel presents religion as the main cause of social intolerance apart from temporary wealth, leading to somewhat idiotic thinking and barbaric acts. The role of religion appears prominent when Candide and his mentor meet the Grand Inquisitor who is the leading figure in the land of Jesuits. However, after his death, he is given a resounding funeral, while Don Issachar, being a Jewish in minority, is thrown on the heap of garbage. This shows the religious discrimination and anti-Semitism staying in the public psyche only because of the religious bias fed by the religious clergy.
  8. Social Status: The novel shows the issue of social status and its impacts on the life of an individual as well as society. Candide could not marry Cunegonde because of his financial as well as social status. Even the Baron fiercely opposes his marriage to her in the end when he sees no other alternative to it. Simultaneously, the life of Candide demonstrates the transitory nature of the social status that brings happiness or sadness to a person in question.
  9. Uselessness of Philosophy: The novel also sheds light on the uselessness of philosophy, for Pangloss’s optimistic outlook toward life and mentoring of this ideology does not bring Candide or him any good. Rather, it shows a glaring flaw that it is just an abstract argument having no tangible results in the material world.

Major Characters in Candide

  1. Candide: Candide is not only the major character and protagonist of the novel but also the mouthpiece of Voltaire through whom he has presented the refutation of Leibniz’s philosophical speculations that too much optimism does not do any good to human beings. True to the semantics of his name, Candide stays optimistic and fair toward everyone, yet he could not marry Cunegonde, his beloved, until the end when the Baron again stands against his wishes. Over the course of the story, he comes across love, wealth, care, and even life, yet the philosophical upbringing of Pangloss does him nothing. He stays unchanged until the end, distributes wealth when it comes to charity, and even helps the poor king, yet he is ready to marry Cunegonde whenever he finds an opportunity. The major flaw of Candide is too many expectations from optimism though his final fulfillment of living a satisfying life on a ranch proves his goodness.
  2. Professor Pangloss: The second significant character and mentor of Candide, Professor Pangloss, is a philosopher and a good mentor who teaches his faithful disciple the value of optimism through his idea that all is best for all the best worlds. His enlightenment takes his disciple to the worlds of which he dreams the least and yet he comes out of it without any conscious effort. However, the flaws in his philosophical speculations are that too much optimism does not do a person any good and that sometimes the person himself becomes skeptical of it as it leads to passivity.
  3. Martin: A foil to Professor Pangloss, Martin is as passive and pessimistic as Pangloss is active and optimistic. Having a vast experience of the world the declaration of Candide that there is some goodness in the world surprises him. He knows that only wealth cannot satisfy a person as it proves in the case of Paquette and Giroflee. Although his predictions prove true in most cases, he also fails in some cases such as Cacambo and yet he stands by his stance throughout the story.
  4. Cacambo: The character of Cacambo is intelligent and morally upright. He also knows what he is doing when it comes to Jesuits and Biblugs and deals with both of them well on account of his multilingual skills. Above all, Candide considers him a trustworthy fellow as he sends him to win back Cunegonde, his beloved, despite his slackness in some mundane matters. His inspiration that laws of nature inspire human beings to kill their neighbors is perhaps the contradiction of Pangloss’ philosophy.
  5. Cunégonde: Beloved of Candide, Cunegonde is the daughter of a baron and yet she comes down from the pedestal of her elitism to love her lowly cousin, Candide, but misfortunes befall upon her when the Bulgars’ attack their castles, killing all of her family members and keeping her alive. After passing through several hands and going through the worst, she finally meets Candide in Constantinople when he sends Cacambo to find her. Her final outlook, however, disappoints readers but not her lover, Candide, who is still ready to marry her despite the staunch opposition of her brother, the Baron.
  6. The Baron: Cunegonde’s brother, the Baron belongs to a high social class but is left due to his good fortune during the attack of the Bulgars that destroys the castle. He turns to religion and becomes a priest of the Jesuit movement, yet he demonstrates some clues of his being a homosexual. His arrogance does not stop him from preventing Candide from marrying his sister even when she has no prospectus.
  7. The Old Woman: Claiming to be the daughter of the Pope, the old woman has gone through various trials and tribulations to reach this stage where she nurses Candide and also takes care of his beloved, Cunegonde. Despite her cynicism, she stays positive and helps others out during their misfortunes.
  8. Jacques: Working as a Dutch Anabaptist, Jacques demonstrates his humanity by taking care of Candide and Pangloss, and yet he stays pessimistic as far as human nature is concerned. Despite this, he loses his life in the sea when saving the life of a sailor.
  9. Paquette: Paquette serves Cunegonde’s mother, associates with Pangloss, and makes him contract syphilis. When Candide meets her in Venice, he feels sorry over her plight and assists her with money but she squanders everything she gets.
  10. Don Issachar: Don Issachar buys Cunegonde to be his mistress. However, religion plays its role, when he shares her with the Grand Inquisitor, an act the refusal of which might cost him his life after being declared a heretic.

Writing Style of Candide

Although translated from French, the English version of Candide shows several traits of Voltaire and the application of his idea of demonstrating the world a stage with actors playing their part to show optimism and pessimism. Despite showing some unbelievable incidents and travels including one to the land of Eldorado, the writing style of Candide is superb. The language suits the characters and shows their traits through their dialogues which are down-to-earth natural and direct. The diction is not very difficult, while for literary devices, Voltaire depends mostly on the use of figurative language by using similes, metaphors, and satire.

Analysis of the Literary Devices in Candide

  1. Action: The main action of the novel comprises the whole life and growth of Candide from being a young man to an old man. The rising action occurs when he is expelled from the castle after he is caught kissing Cunegonde. The falling action occurs when the Baron is enslaved in the galleys.
  2. Anaphora: The novel shows examples of anaphora such as,
    i. “Manifestly,” he said, “nothing could have been different. Since everything was designed for a purpose, everything is necessarily meant to serve the best of all purposes. Observe how noses are designed to hold up eyeglasses, and therefore we have eyeglasses. Legs are obviously meant for wearing shoes, and so we have shoes. Rocks having been designed to be quarried and used for building purposes, the Baron has a singularly beautiful mansion. (Chapter-1)
    ii. Nothing was ever so fine, so elegant, so gleamingly brilliant, so well-ordered as the two armies. (Chapter-3)
    iii. ‘Everything is linked together and designed for the best. I had to be driven away from Miss Cunégonde, and I had to run the gauntlet, and I have to beg for my bread until I’m able to earn it. Nothing could have been different.’’ (Chapter-3)
    These examples show the repetitious use of “purpose”, “so” and “I had.”
  3. Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the below example,
    i. “In the name of Saint James of Compostela!” said Cacambo. “You were going to fight against the Jesuits: let’s go fight for them. I know how to get there, I’ll bring you to their kingdom. (Chapter-13)
    ii. Candide had brought with him, from Cadiz, a valet of a type often found on the coasts of Spain and in the colonies. (Chapter-14)
    iii. I’ve been tempted, a hundred times, to set fire to our monastery and go off and become a Turk. (Chapter-24)
    iv. The Doge of Venice has his sorrows, the gondoliers have theirs. (Chapter-24)
    The first example shows the reference to a saint, then to the Jesuits, the rest shows references to geographical entities of Spain, Turkey, and Venice.
  4. Antagonist: There is no one specific antagonist because first, the Bulgars attack the castle from where Candide is taken as a conscript, then the Inquisitor and the governor also stand against Candide’s desire to marry Cunegonde. Finally, her brother, the Baron, also opposes Candide. All these are minor antagonists in the novel.
  5. Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between Candide and the world. However, the internal conflict is going on in his mind about his beliefs and the reality of the world that he understands through the prism of Pangloss.
  6. Characters: The novel, Candide, shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Candide, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Pangloss, the Baron, Cunegonde, and Cacambo.
  7. Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Candide comes to know about Cunegonde in Turkey after which they decide to marry. However, the Baron opposes this but they find satisfaction in gardening.
  8. Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the examples below,
    i. In Westphalia, in Baron Thunder-den-tronckh’s mansion, lived a young man born wonderfully mild and gentle. His face revealed his soul. He possessed a sufficiency of good sense, and a profoundly straightforward mind—which is why, I believe, he’d been named Candide. (Chapter-1)
    ii. Driven out of this earthly paradise, Candide walked for a long time, not knowing where he was going, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven, and constantly looking back toward the noblest of mansions, containing the most beautiful of all baronial daughters. (Chapter-2)
    The mention of soul, good sense, and driven shows that something is going to happen to Candide whatever he may do.
  9. Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles such as,
    i. This Issacar had the worst temper of any Hebrew seen in Israel since the Babylonian captivity. (Chapter-9)
    ii. “Morocco was swimming in blood when we arrived.” (Chapter-11)
    iii. They were reduced to such extremities that, in order to preserve their oath, they were obliged to eat the two eunuchs. Some days later, they decided to eat
    the women. (Chapter-12)
    These examples exaggerate things as the temper of Issacar, swimming of Morocco, and eating of women or eunuchs.
  10. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
    i. Half the passengers, sickened and weak, close to death from the incredible suffering caused by a ship’s wild rolling, their nerves and all their senses pulled first one way and then another, were quite unable to worry about danger. The other half screamed and said prayers. The sails were stripped away, the masts snapped, the ship was breaking apart. Those who were still able to, worked; none of them knew what they were doing; no one was in charge. (Chapter-5)
    ii. They fought over us with the fury of their native tigers and lions and snakes. A Moor grabbed my mother’s right arm, my captain’s chief lieutenant held her left one. A Moorish soldier took her by the leg, and one of our pirates clutched the other one. In a flash, virtually all our maids were pounced on from four different sides. My captain hid me behind his back, wielding a scimitar and killing anyone who tried to get around him. (Chapter-11)
    These two examples show images used to show feelings, emotions, and movements.
  11. Metaphor: Candide shows good use of various metaphors as given in the examples below,
    i. Finally, I saw all our Italian women as well as my mother ripped up, chopped, sliced, massacred by the monsters who were competing for them. (Chapter-11)
    ii. The soldiers performed the horrible operation on us. The priest applied the same medicine used on children who have just been circumcised. (Chapter-12)
    These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows comparing women to woods and the second shows soldiers working as surgeons.
  12. Mood: The novel, Candide, shows various moods; it starts with quite a happy mood but turns to tragedy and satire until it reaches its end, showing calmness and peace.
  13. Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are rape, sexual exploitation, religion, and philosophy.
  14. Narrator: The novel is narrated from a third-person point of view, who happens to be Voltaire himself.
  15. Parallelism: The novel shows many instances of parallelism such as,
    i. He demonstrated perfectly that there was no effect without a cause and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s mansion was the most beautiful of all mansions and the Baroness the best of all possible baronesses. (Chapter-1).
    ii. Driven out of this earthly paradise, Candide walked for a long
    time, not knowing where he was going, weeping, raising his eyes to
    heaven, and constantly looking back toward the noblest of mansions,
    containing the most beautiful of all baronial daughters. (Chapter-2)
    iii. He hadn’t gone five miles when, suddenly, four other heroes, six feet tall, overtook him, tied him up, and led him to jail. (Chapter-2)
    These examples show the parallel use of words, phrases, and clauses.
  16. Protagonist: Candide is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry into the world and moves forward as he grows older and optimistic and becomes an experienced young man leading a settled life after all the challenging and near-death experiences.
  17. Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places such as,
    i. “What? You, my dear teacher! You, in that horrible condition! What misfortune could have fallen on you? Why aren’t you still living in the loveliest of all mansions? What’s become of Miss Cunégonde, gem of all women, nature’s masterpiece?’(Chapter-4)
    ii. “Who are you?” Candide kept asking her. “What inspires you to such kindness? What could I possibly do for you?” (Chapter-7)
    This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
  18. Setting: The setting of the novel is both real as well as fiction; the fictional world is of the land of Eldorado, while the real world comprises France, Turkey, and Venice.
  19. Simile: The novel shows excellent use of various similes such as,
    i. We set sail on a local ship, gilded like Saint Peter’s altar in Rome. (Chapter-11)
    ii. At last, they came to a large dwelling, built like a European palace. (Chapter-17)
    These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things.