Is this world the best of all possible worlds, or is such optimism just keeping us away from achieving happiness?
Who Should Read “Candide”? And Why?
“Candide” is a story about the adventures of Candide, who wanders around the world, going from one misfortune to the next, all the while he feels that his optimistic philosophy is being challenged.
It is an interesting read written as a criticism of optimism, and I recommend that everyone reads it at least once in a lifetime.
Voltaire (born as Francois-Marie Arouet) was a writer of philosophical books and plays living in the late 17th – early 18th century in Europe.
Candide starts like any other good novel: in medias res, with Candide’s status quo being shaken.
Candide, the hero of this short but powerful, is an illegitimate nephew of a German baron, that lives in the baron’s estate until he takes a liking in the baron’s daughter Cunégonde, who luckily (or not) likes him back.
The two meet in secret, but the baron catches them and wants Candide out of his house.
Candide leaves home and is for the first time left by himself. By then he was schooled by the scholar Pangloss, that has maintained and passed on to him his belief that this world is “the best of all possible worlds.”
Pangloss is one of the critical figures of the novel since he is a representative of Leibniz’s theory, one of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, which is the central premise the book tries to dismiss.
The course of the story is shaped in a way that all events serve this dismissal of optimism, and therefore the text, although filled with many adventures that the average genre novel reader would enjoy, is packed with a deep and significant philosophical meaning.
The first thing that Candide encounters as he wanders by himself is the army of the Bulgars, who consider him a deserter.
As he joins them, he witnesses gruesome images of a battle and successfully tries to escape, traveling to Holland.
There, he also meets Pangloss and discovers that Cunegonde and the baron’s family have been killed by the Bulgar army.
They are both taken in by an Anabaptist named Jacques, and then the three join forces to travel to Lisbon.
However, on their way, a storm cuts their way, and Jacques loses his life to the waves.
Candide and his teacher Pangloss arrive in Lisbon after it has been hit by an earthquake that has destroyed most of the city.
This fictional earthquake is based on a real event happening in the middle of the eighteenth century, and serves as yet another critique on optimism, representing all natural disasters that cannot be stopped in which lives are lost without any actual reason.
They are considered heretics, and Pangloss is hanged, and Candide is beaten. After the beating, an old woman helps him and takes him to (wait for it) no one else but Cunégonde!
Yes, she is alive!
She explains her sad story about becoming a sex slave, and when her owners arrive in the house, Candid kills them. Together, along with the old lady, they run away and get on a ship to South America.
During this journey, Candid listens to the old woman’s story filled with enslavement, rape, and even cannibalism.
When they arrive in Bueno Aires, things do not go as expected.
Cunégonde despite considering getting married to Candide before their arrival, accepts the hand in marriage of Don Fernando, a wealthy bachelor from South America.
Candide needs to continue running away, since authorities are looking for him for the murders he committed, and getting a new valet on the way, named Cacambo, ends in a territory governed by Jesuits.
There, he finds that the leader of them is Cunégonde’s brother, whom he kills when he opposes him marrying his sister.
It seems that Candide enters from one unfortunate event to another until he and Cacambo find themselves in Eldorado, the land of gold and riches, where life seems to be blissful.
However, although they stay in this utopian environment, Candide longs for Cunégonde, and after a few weeks of their stay, he and Cacambo leave Eldorado, with bags filled with jewels.
Candide plans to use this wealth to buy Cunégonde from her current “owner,” but he finds himself in a situation where most of his riches are stolen.
He then decides to go to France and gets a pessimistic man named Martin to accompany him, feeling his optimism being dampened by all the unfortunate events that have occurred and seem never to stop happening.
On his way to France, he manages to get back some of his riches, as the merchant’s ship sinks and gets some of his optimism back, but his companion does not agree with his stance.
From there they continue to reach Venice to find Cacambo and Cunégonde, but he has trouble locating them. However, his fortune attracts many other characters in his experience.
Eventually, he finds out that Cacambo and Cunégonde are enslaved in Turkey, and he then departs to set them free.
When Candide reaches Constantinople he successfully purchases the freedom of Cacambo and Cunégonde.
She has become ugly since their last encounter, but he frees her and marries her anyway. He also meets Pangloss, who has somehow survived, as well as the baron he thought he killed.
They all move to a farm where they realize that the only way their lives will not be boring is if they work.
By working, they have no time for philosophical questions and speculations, and they can be finally happy.
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“Candide PDF Quotes”Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable. For my part, I read only to please myself and like only what suits my taste. Click To Tweet I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. Click To Tweet Let us cultivate our garden. Click To Tweet If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others? Click To Tweet Our labour preserves us from three great evils -- weariness, vice, and want. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“Candide” is a classic. I have read it a few times, and all of those times I have a problem with the unrealistic coincidences and characters constantly somehow ending up alive, but it was probably the only way the author could tackle the questions he wished to raise.
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