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Candide – Voltaire’s wittiest novel

Candide, the illegitimate son of a Baron’s sister, was sent to live with the Baron at his beautiful castle in Westphalia. The Baroness weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, as therefore greatly respected, and did the honors of the house it had digniy which rendered her still more respect. Her daughter Cunegonde, aged seventeen, was rosy-checked, fresh, plump and tempting. The Baron’s son appeared in every respect worthy of his father. The tutor Pangloss was the oracle of the house, and little Candide followed his lessons with all the candor of his age and character.

Pangloss, “the greatest philosopher of the province and therefore of the whole world,” taught Candide that he lived in “the best of all possible worlds. ” His theory was that “since everything is made for an end, everything is necessarily for the best end. ” Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches … Over the years at the castle, Candide adopted dear Pangloss’ optimism. However, his bliss was not to be. Candide loon became infatuated with the beauty of Cunegonde, and one day had an intimate encounter with her in the castle.

The noble Baron witnessed this scene and drove his daughter’s young suitor out of the house. With no provisions and no money, Candide quickly found himself recruited into the Bulgar army. But, tiring of army routine, and following Pangloss’ theory that a] I men were free, he simply walked away. He was caught, however, and forced to run the gauntlet. Collapsing after the second round, Candide begged to be killed, but was instead pardoned by the passing Bulgar king. Later, after surviving a brutal battle and witnessing the repulsive treatment of innocent villagers, Candide once again walked away in disgust.

As he wandered through the countryside, he was denied a piece of bread by a preacher who had just finished a sermon on charity. Near starvation, he was finally taken in by a kind Anabaptist. The following day Candide met up with a wretched beggar who turned out to be his old tutor, Pangloss. Pangloss had shocking news for Candide: his beloved Cunegonde had been stolen away, raped, and disemboweled by Bulgar soldiers. The disheartened young man wept uncontrollably. Months passed. Pangloss and Candide were appointed accountants to the generous Anabaptist and journeyed with him toward Lisbon.

Nearing the city, their ship was caught in a storm and sank. All aboard were drowned except Candide, Pangloss, and a villainous sailor. Just as the three reached shore, a tremendous earthquake and volcanic eruption destroyed the city. The sailor went to work looting and plundering through the town’s wreckage. Even though Candide and Pangloss tried to help the city’s survivors, it was they who were arrested by a supersitious mob and slated to be human sacrifices to quell any further earthquakes. The appointed day arrived. Pangloss was taken out to be hanged.

But Candide, escaping a similar fate, was merely preached at, flogged – then absolved of his sin and blessed! An old woman treated Candide’s wounds and took him to a lonely house on the edge of town, where he was reunited with his beautiful Cunegonde. Cunegonde told her overjoyed lover that, since surviving the soldiers’ obviously nonfatal mistreatment, she had served as a mistress to numerous men and currently worked for both a Jew and a Grand Inquisitor. Just then the Jew entered the room to find his mistress and Candide entwined on the couch. In self-defense, Candide killed him.

As the lovers considered their plight, the Grand Inquisitor also entered, and Candide was forced to take his life as well. (The Jew’s body was later thrown on a dungheap, while the remains of the Inquisitor were given a ceremonial burial at the local church. ) Candide, Cunegonde and the old woman fled on horseback. At last they reached Cadiz, where Candide was once again recruited into the army, this time as a captain. He was sent to Paraguay to purge the Jesuits. During the voyage, Candide frankly admitted that, contrary to Pangloss’ idealistic theory, “regrettable things happen in this world of ours. ”

The ship reached Buenos Aires, and the governor sent the trusting Candide out to review the troops. Then, in Candide’s absence, he proposed marriage to lovely Cunegonde. As Candide was reviewing the troops, the old woman arrived to warn him that a Spanish ship had entered the harbor; officials had debarked to arrest the murderer of the Grand Inquisitor. Clearly unable to save Cunegonde from the governor’s grasp, Candide and a servant, Cacambo, again fled for their lives. They joined with Paraguayan forces; and when Candide was taken to see the colonel, he was overwhelmed to recognize him as the son of the late Baron – Cunegonde’s brother!

The two hurriedly devised a plan for her rescue; but when Candide revealed his intentions to marry Cunegonde, the colonel flew into a rage. Candide was not of royal birth and had no claim to her. Candide stabbed him with his sword, then, once more, he and Cacambo excaped to the South American frontier. In one of many strange encounters, Candide and Cacambo awoke one morning to find themselves in peril of being eaten by Oreillon natives. They were released, but only after convincing their captors that they were not Jesuits. On another occasion, while wandering across the land the men discovered an underground river.

They followed its course, which led to the hidden city of Eldorado. At last; here was the Utopian society which had built itself on Pangloss’ “best of all possible worlds” philosophy. In Eldorado, there was only one religion, no civil or religious wars, no courts of law (for none were necessary), and the king was of high moral character. Diamonds and precious gems littered the ground like pebbles. But Candide could not be happy without Cunegonde, and he requested to leave that land of paradise in search of his beloved. The king graciously permitted the exit of Candide and Cacambo and supplied them with one hundred sheep loaded with jewels.

Only two sheep survived the perilous sea journey. With little remaining money, Candide ordered Cacambo return to Paraguay to buy Cunegonde from the governor. He would then rendezvous with them in Venice. Candide continued alone on his journey. A dishonest ship’s captain stole Candide’s last sheep and jewels, leaving the traveler once again miserable and destitute. Nevertheless, together with a new traveling companion, Martin, who had a little money, Candide sailed for Venice. En route, they came upon a Dutch and a Spanish ship at battle. As the Dutch ship was sinking Candide learned it was the ship of the rogue who had stolen his sheep.

Miraculously, he was able to recover one of the jewel-laden animals before the ship went down. In France, Candide’s last pocketful of jewels rapidly diminished, as he innocently satisfied the greed of deceiving strangers and corrupt officials. Surely even the idealist Pangloss would have viewed these predators as a most disgusting and wicked people. Arriving in Venice, Candide searched in vain for Cunegonde and Cacambo. Martin, his new friend-turned-philosopher, added to Candide’s despair by continually lamenting that all was not for the best; that all people were most miserable; that the world was “very mad and very abominable.

One evening Candide chanced to meet up with Cacambo, who was being held in bondage. Cacambo informed his friend that Cunegonde had been forced to sail on to Constantinople. Immediately they set out to find her. On the voyage, Candide recognized two of the galley slaves aboard the ship: one turned out to be his beloved Pangloss and the other Cunegonde’s brother. Both were alive and well! The brother had survived the wound Candide had thought fatal, and the tutor-philosopher had escaped hanging in Lisbon due to the bungling hangman’s ineptness in tying a proper knot.

To Candide’s dismay, Pangloss still clung to his optimistic views. Candide purchased the two slaves and continued on with them toward Canstantinople. There they found Cunegonde and the old woman. However, Cunegonde was no longer beautiful, but shrewish and ugly. Yet once again Candide professed his love and desire to marry her. The brother again raged, so Candide returned him to the galley and back to slavery. Pooling their money and talents, Candide, ugly Cunegonde, Pangloss, Martin, and a few others purchased a farm, and committed themselves to a life of duty and work.

Let us work without theorizing,” said Martin; “’tis the only way to make life endurable. ” Pangloss, though, still sometimes tried to persuade Candide otherwise: All events are linked up in this best of all possible worlds; for, if you had not been expelled from the noble castle, by hard kicks in your backside for love of Mademoiselle Cunegonde, if you had not been clapped into the Inquisition, if you had not wandered about America on foot, if you had not stuck your sword in the Baron, if you had not lost all your sheep from the land of Eldorado, you would not be eating candied citrons and pistachios here.

That’s well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our garden. ” Candide is easily Voltaire’s wittiest novel. In its time it was a powerful tool for political attack on Europe’s degenerate and immoral society. The work vividly and satirically portrays the horrors of eitheenth-century life: civil and religious wars, sexual diseases, despotic rulers, the arbitrary punishment of innocent victims – the same enduring problems we witness today.

Through the constant misfortunes of Candide, Voltaire poses meaningful questions about the nature of suffering. Pangloss’ philosophy is eagerly and enthusiastically accepted by Candide in the beginning of the novel. But toward the end of his life he refutes this Utopian theory, concluding that diligence in labor is the only answers to a life constantly riddled with bad luck. Indeed, Voltaire teaches that man is incapable of understanding the evil in the world, and concludes that the fundamental aim in life is not happiness, but survival.

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