Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
THE STORY, continued
Candide is persuaded by his servant, Cacambo, to leave Cunegonde and head for Paraguay. There, instead of making war on the Jesuits, they will make war for them. When they arrive at the Jesuit encampment, they are seized. The commander consents to meet them when he learns that Candide is a German. The commander turns out to be the young baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh. After embracing him, Candide tells him that his sister, Cunegonde, is alive and in Buenos Aires.
Cacambo makes his first appearance in Chapter 14, although he is said to have been with Candide since Cadiz. This servant is to play an important part in Candide's South American adventures. In this first stage of the journey, he acts as an adviser and a guide. In later chapters, he will assume other roles in his relationship with Candide.
Cacambo is similar in many ways to the old woman. Both are realistic and worldly-wise. Both are able to find a way out of a sticky situation. Cacambo immediately sees the course they must take. They must fight for the Jesuits instead of against them.
Such quick change of sides is consistent with Cacambo's chief characteristics in this chapter, his adaptability and resourcefulness. He is a jack-of-all-trades. He has been a monk, a sailor, a merchant, and many other things besides. He has no qualms about which side he will fight on in the Jesuit war. It is Cacambo, not Candide, who figures out the way to get the commander to receive them. His adaptability and resourcefulness will frequently come in handy on his travels with Candide.
Although Candide does not have Cacambo's problem-solving ability, he is not the simple soul he was in earlier chapters. Already, in Chapter 13, Candide was beginning to show signs of independent judgment. He says that he could raise some objections to Pangloss's philosophy if only Pangloss were alive to hear them. The beginnings of his disenchantment with Pangloss's views can also be seen here in Chapter 14. When the commander asks him where he hails from, Candide replies, "From the nasty province of Westphalia." This is quite a contrast with his idealized view of his homeland in earlier chapters. The South American chapters are very important if you are to understand the development of the character of Candide. Watch carefully for other signs of his changing attitude and beliefs in these chapters.
In Chapter 14, Voltaire continues jabbing away at religion, his chief target in this chapter being the Jesuits. The Jesuits are portrayed as exploiters of the Paraguayan people. The wealth of the Jesuits and the poverty of the Indians are symbolically depicted in the contrast between the Jesuit commander, with his ornate, leafy retreat, where he and Candide dine sumptuously, and the Indians, who are depicted eating corn on the naked ground. The Jesuits' policy is summed up by Cacambo, who says that the Jesuits have everything and the people have nothing.
The hypocrisy of the Jesuits is seen in the contrast between their behavior in Europe and their behavior in America. In Europe, they bless the very kings against whom they make war in America. The irony of priests who make war is developed more fully in Chapter 15.
NOTE: THE JESUITS
The Jesuits were also famous as religious philosophers and sophisticated thinkers. As confessors to kings, many of them had privileged and powerful positions in society. They were also figures of theological controversy. They were sometimes considered too liberal, too accommodating to modern thought. Because of both their power and their views, in the 18th century, the Jesuits were expelled from various Catholic countries, including France in 1765, only six years after the publication of Candide.
Chapter 14 ends with the ecstatic reunion of Candide and the young baron. Remember their warm embraces and tears when you read about the outcome of this reunion in Chapter 15.
After the slaughter at the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh, the young baron was presumed dead, but he had only fainted. He was revived by a sprinkling of holy water as he was being carried off for burial. The Jesuit priest who revived him took a fancy to him and made him a novice. Eventually, the young baron was sent to Paraguay, where he rose in rank. When the young baron finishes his story, Candide tells him that he would like to marry Cunegonde. The baron is furious and slaps Candide with his sword. Candide then stabs the baron. On the advice of Cacambo, Candide puts on the Jesuit's robe and the two ride out of the camp.
The baron's description of his life with the Jesuits continues the satire of the previous chapter. Throughout his narrative, the dual nature of the Jesuits' role is stressed. As both missionaries and soldiers of Christ, they are in Paraguay both as priests and conquerors. Their power has led them into competition for control with Spain. The baron arrived as a subdeacon (a low position) and a lieutenant. He is now a full priest and a colonel. The Spanish troops will be defeated on the battlefield and excommunicated in the bargain. The apparent contradiction between war and religion recalls the picture of the young baron in Chapter 14, standing with his cassock (priest's gown) drawn up to reveal his sword.
NOTE: The young baron is frequently associated with homosexuality. In Chapter 3, Pangloss says that the baron was subjected to the same treatment as his sister Cunegonde- that is, raped. Here, Father Croust (a personal real-life enemy of Voltaire) takes a liking to the baron because he is a pretty boy. Except as a way to insult Father Croust, there seems to be no particular motive for attributing this behavior to the baron personally, unless Voltaire wanted to comment on the masculine image of the military profession in general. Remember that earlier he represented the Prussians as Bulgars in order to suggest homosexuality.
The joyful reunion takes an ironic twist when Candide says that he wants to marry Cunegonde. No longer is Candide the welcome brother. He is now an upstart, trying to rise above his station in life. Candide first tries to reason with the baron, but when the baron hits him he strikes back.
Cacambo's quick wit saves the situation. Candide, the idealistic hero, can think of no solution but to die fighting. Cacambo, the practical realist, finds a quick solution in the clothes change. The consequences of wearing a disguise will be seen in the next chapter.
Candide and Cacambo escape safely from the Jesuits. They stop to rest and at nightfall they hear the sound of women's voices. Two girls run by, chased by two monkeys. Thinking to save the girls, Candide kills the monkeys. But the girls cry and moan over the dead animals. Cacambo informs Candide that the monkeys were probably the girls' lovers, and that the two of them are headed for trouble of some sort as a result of Candide's act. Sure enough, they awaken to find themselves tied up, prisoners of the Biglug Indians (called Oreillons, or "big ears" in the original and other translations). The Biglugs are ready to make dinner of Candide and Cacambo. Fortunately, however, Cacambo finds a way to save the situation again. He realizes that the Biglugs want to eat them because the Indians think the two strangers are Jesuits. When he proves to the Indians that he and Candide are not Jesuits but have actually killed a Jesuit, they are set free.
NOTE: THE "NOBLE SAVAGE."
Candide's portrayal of the Biglugs is hardly idealized. Voltaire's primitive society is cannibalistic and bestial. However, the Biglugs make a quick conversion to western-style reasoning when Cacambo convinces them to reject cannibalism by appealing to the sophisticated rules and customs of international law.
In the Biglugs' too-ready acceptance of Cacambo's elaborate reasoning, what may Voltaire be suggesting about the innate difference between primitive and modern societies? Is there any, according to Voltaire?
The episode of the Biglugs continues the satirical portrait of the Jesuits. Being dressed as a Jesuit was a major cause of Candide's problem. The killing of the two monkeys was forgotten once the Biglugs learned that Candide had killed a Jesuit.
Candide's attitudes and spirits fluctuate in this chapter. The fluctuation is typified by his reaction to the state of nature. When he is about to be eaten, he questions Pangloss's teaching about man in the state of nature. But after Cacambo gets him off the hook, he comes to believe that "uncorrupted nature is good." Candide speaks in ideal terms, but his reactions are governed by events, not by ideals. This fluctuation of Candide's attitude toward optimism continues until the conclusion.
After being freed by the Biglugs, Candide and Cacambo decide to head for Cayenne and the coast. The road is long and full of dangers. When they finally run out of food and are at the end of their rope, they set themselves adrift in a canoe. They float gently downriver until the current changes and drives them along at a terrible speed. The canoe crashes, and the two of them make their way to a beautiful valley.
Upon entering the village, they see children playing with what appears to be gold and precious jewels. The children throw the stones away. When Candide attempts to return the stones, he is laughed at. Later, he tries to pay for a magnificent dinner with the stones. He is told that they are just pebbles and that the meal, though unworthy of them, is free.
Chapter 17 brings Candide and Cacambo to what some readers identify as the turning point of the story, the visit to the land of Eldorado. Certainly, after this visit, Candide will frequently compare the rest of the world with Eldorado. Whether you see this as the turning point in Candide's rejection of optimism depends on your interpretation of Candide's character before and after this episode. See whether you can detect a change in Candide's attitude and actions after Eldorado. You can also defend the point of view that Candide's development is more gradual. But you will need to find evidence of increasing realism, even pessimism and decreasing belief in optimist ideals, in the chapters leading up to Eldorado.
In Chapter 17, you are introduced to a few aspects of Eldorado: its wealth, its beauty, the kindness of its citizens. The details of this ideal world are presented in Chapter 18.
NOTE: The myth of Eldorado, or golden land, was not a creation of Voltaire. Since the 16th century, stories had been told by explorers and conquerors of a land of fabulous wealth in various locations in South America. It was generally believed that such a place did, in fact, exist and many unsuccessful expeditions were launched to find its wealth. The actual silver and gold already found in the New World, and especially in Mexico, gave credence to these stories. Eventually, Eldorado came to mean any imaginary place where easy riches could be found.
What is created in this chapter is the sense of Eldorado as "another world" that is truly distinct from the world Candide has experienced. He and Cacambo reach Eldorado only when they abandon themselves to fate. Voltaire repeatedly emphasizes that the worldly-wise Cacambo is astounded by what he sees in Eldorado. Why? Because as too much of a cynic, always expecting evil, he is incapable of accepting a world where evil seems absent? Or is Voltaire telling you, through the realistic voice of Cacambo, that Eldorado is indeed an impossible ideal for human beings? Decide for yourself as you read Chapter 18 whether you think Voltaire is making a case for the ideal society or thinks it out of step with human nature.
Candide and Cacambo meet with one of the elders of the country. They question him about the customs and history of Eldorado. They then travel to the capital, where they meet the king and are entertained royally for a month. The two travelers then decide to leave Eldorado and find Cunegonde. They plan to return to Europe to live a life of luxury. The king of Eldorado does not understand their desire to leave, but he has his scientists invent a machine that lifts them over the mountains. Accompanied by a hundred red sheep laden with gold, precious jewels, and provisions, Cacambo and Candide head again for Cayenne.
The Eldorado episode is a pause in the narrative rhythm of Candide. Very little happens here, but these two chapters contribute greatly to your understanding of the story. Throughout Candide, Voltaire criticizes the faults and weaknesses of European society. In Eldorado, he gives us a glimpse of his idea of a better world.
What are the chief characteristics of Eldorado? It is a beautiful country, both naturally beautiful and made even more so by man. It is a land of great wealth; its citizens have all they need and, by European standards, much more. Because its people value their "pebbles and mud" only as materials and not as sources of power, it is a contented, peaceful land. It is a religious country, whose only religious ritual is thanking God. It is a land that prizes science and in which the useful and the beautiful are united.
Eldorado is perhaps even more noteworthy for what it does not have than for what it has. It has no law courts, no prisons, no priests. It is a society that needs no mediators, either between God and man or between individual men. The Eldoradans are contented people who have vowed never to leave their homeland. Their history has taught them that those who left Eldorado (the Incas) in order to conquer others were themselves destroyed.
This lesson, however, is lost on Candide and Cacambo. They decide to leave Eldorado because they believe they can live better outside. Candide says that the two can live like kings in Europe, while in Eldorado they are no different from anyone else. The normally wise Cacambo agrees with him.
What is your idea of the ideal state? Would you choose to live in Eldorado or would you, like Candide, look for a better life elsewhere? Is there anything you think wrong with Eldorado as it's presented by Voltaire?
The meaning of their decision to leave can be seen in different ways. Their departure can be considered a realistic assessment of human nature. The desire to be better is more natural to men than the desire to be equal, even if the equality exists in pleasant circumstances.
Their departure can also be seen as a rejection by Voltaire of the very idea of "utopia," or a "perfect" state. Is Voltaire saying that utopias are worthwhile to think about, but impossible to achieve? Is he saying that maybe utopias are even undesirable? Isn't it human to want to be better than your neighbor? Isn't it also human to have faults and conflicts? In deciding whether you think Voltaire ultimately rejects the achievability of his ideal state, keep in mind the picture he has painted so far of people and society. You may not be able, though, to resolve the question completely until the conclusion of Candide, when the travelers set up their own "ideal" state.
Another aspect of the Eldorado chapter that points to the conclusion of Candide is the message of the old man's story about his ancestors. The wisest men were those who chose to stay rather than to seek greater wealth and power in the outside world. The old man's message complements the king's view that people ought to stay where they are relatively comfortable and happy. The implication of both the king's and the old man's message is to find happiness where you are. The inhabitants of Eldorado are not aware of the uniqueness of their situation. They do not know that they are the richest people in the world. Their wisdom lies in recognizing that they are happy and comfortable. They do not need to measure their happiness against someone else's misery. Compare the advice of the old man with that of the other good old man in Chapter 30.
These chapters on Eldorado are quite important in understanding the overall intent of Candide. They accentuate Voltaire's satirical picture of European ways by means of contrast. Eldorado is the perfect foil for Europe.
After traveling for a hundred days, Candide and Cacambo arrive in the city of Surinam on the northern coast of South America. They now have only two of the red sheep, the other ones having died on the difficult journey.
Outside the city of Surinam, they meet a black man, who is missing both a hand and a leg. The black man is a slave in a sugar mill. His hand had been cut off when he caught his finger in the mill. His leg was cut off because he tried to run away. Candide is horrified by the slave's story and concludes that in the face of such evidence Pangloss's optimism must be abandoned.
When they enter Surinam, Candide tries to convince a ship's captain to take him to Cunegonde in Buenos Aires. The captain refuses, because the woman Candide is looking for is the favorite of the governor of Buenos Aires. Candide is shocked to hear that his beloved is the governor's mistress. He decides to send Cacambo to pay off the governor and bring Cunegonde to him in Venice. He'll travel directly to Venice and wait for them there.
Candide books passage on a ship bound for Venice. The ship's captain, Mr. (or Mynheer) Vanderdendur, who is also the owner of the notorious sugar mill, deceives Candide. Vanderdendur makes off with the last two sheep and leaves Candide in Surinam. In deep despair, Candide then books passage on another ship. He takes with him as a traveling companion the scholar Martin.
Candide's last days in America are filled with catastrophe. His fortunes seemed to have reached a high point as he left Eldorado, a wealthy man on his way to find Cunegonde. But in this chapter, events take a dramatic turn for the worse. He loses his sheep; he finds out that Cunegonde is the governor's mistress; he is swindled by both Vanderdendur and the Dutch magistrate.
The episode in Surinam is particularly important in understanding the development of Candide's character. When Candide left Eldorado, he was wealthy and anticipating his reunion with Cunegonde. When he reaches Surinam, although he has only two sheep left, he is still a very wealthy man, and he does not yet know that Cunegonde is the governor's mistress. But after he meets the black slave, he voices his strongest denunciation of optimism so far. He tells Cacambo that optimism is a "mania," which asserts that everything is fine when everything is quite the opposite.
Why does Candide react so strongly at this particular juncture, when his own fortunes, though somewhat diminished, are still generally positive? It may be because slavery is such an unspeakable abomination that no justification is possible. Or it may be because so many bad things have happened to Candide, and he has seen so much evil, that his encounter with the black man is the final straw. But something has changed in Candide. He is no longer merely questioning optimism but actively denouncing it.
NOTE: There is some indication that Voltaire added the encounter with the slave after finishing the original manuscript. The addition was the result of further reading he had done on slavery. It may lend support to the idea that what inspires the strong denunciation of optimism here is the horror of slavery.
Candide hits an emotional low point in this chapter. To understand what changes have taken place in his character, compare Candide now with the way he appeared at another low point, after the auto-da-fe in Chapter 5. In both instances, Candide's reaction to optimism is based more on what has happened to other people than on what has happened to him. But notice the difference in the form his reaction takes. In Chapter 6, he is puzzled, doubting. In Chapter 19, he denounces optimism and defines it for himself. Instead of asking questions, he is answering Cacambo's question. After the auto-da-fe, Candide's story takes a brief turn for the better when he finds Cunegonde again and she becomes more hopeful. In Surinam, things merely get worse and worse. Even relatively smaller annoyances, like the magistrate's coldness, make him despair.
What do you think has caused this change in Candide? Can you trace the steps that brought him to this point? What is there in Eldorado that could have made it a turning point for Candide?
In Chapter 19, two new characters enter the story, Martin the scholar and the Dutch merchant Vanderdendur. Vanderdendur, the slave holder and swindler of Candide, is a complete scoundrel. He is the exact opposite of another Dutch merchant in the story, the honest Anabaptist Jacques. Vanderdendur meets his end in Chapter 20, when at sea he is drowned in a shipwreck like Jacques. But whereas Jacques died trying to save another man, Vanderdendur is killed trying to rob another ship.
The scholar Martin is the third of Candide's companion advisers. Candide chooses Martin to accompany him in a contest he's holding to find the most miserable man in Surinam. This scene is reminiscent of the old woman's challenge to Cunegonde, in Chapters 12 and 13, to have each of their fellow passengers tell his story. The results of Candide's contest confirm the old woman's opinion about the universality of human misery. Ironically, Candide chooses his companion not because he is the most miserable- nearly all are equally miserable- but because he promises to be the most amusing.
NOTE: Martin is persecuted for being thought a Socinian, a follower of the beliefs of a small Unitarian Protestant sect that denied the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and other basic tenets of orthodox Christianity. Although the Socinians had found refuge in Poland in the 16th century, they were eventually disbanded and destroyed as a practicing sect. Socinian writings, however, continued to have influence among the non-orthodox, and were well thought of by the French philosophes because of their relatively rational approach to religion. Martin, like the Anabaptist Jacques and the victims of the Inquisition in Lisbon, is yet another example of the intolerance and religious hatred that Voltaire fought against.
Martin and Candide discuss philosophy as they cross the ocean. Candide is wavering again toward Pangloss's philosophy, especially when he thinks of seeing Cunegonde again. Martin claims to be a Manichean who believes that the world, with the exception of Eldorado, is dominated by evil.
While Martin and Candide are arguing in effect whether this is the best or worst of all possible worlds, they witness a sea battle between two ships, one of them belonging to the Dutch pirate Vanderdendur. When his ship sinks a red sheep floats over to the ship on which Candide and Martin are sailing. Candide takes this as an omen that he may see Cunegonde again. Candide's black mood decreases and so does his opposition to optimism. His hope of seeing Cunegonde again, the omen of the sheep, even a good meal, contribute to his reviving optimism. Voltaire shows in this chapter that Candide's attitude is becoming influenced by circumstances rather than philosophy, and also by the strength of his hope of finding his love Cunegonde.
Martin's pessimistic view of human behavior is outlined in this chapter. His observations of cruelty and human woes, and his own painful experiences, have led him to believe in a world where evil has the upper hand. Although he is, in a sense, an anti-Pangloss, Voltaire does not make Martin's views appear as ridiculous as those of Pangloss. This may imply that Voltaire prefers reasonable pessimism or, at least skepticism, to excessive optimism. Since the basis of pessimism lies in its view of human nature as basically evil or vulnerable to evil, is there any evidence in Candide that Voltaire holds this view and that Martin is really speaking for him? How would you characterize Voltaire's view of human nature based on this book?
Martin's observations often seem just. He points out the fallacy in Candide's thinking when Candide applauds Vanderdendur's "punishment." Martin reminds Candide that many other people who had nothing to do with the captain's dishonesty died with Vanderdendur. Martin is a realist, and, unlike Pangloss, he does not seem to distort reality to fit his philosophy. Martin's character and its effect on Candide should be watched closely in the remaining chapters of the novel.
Martin and Candide continue to talk as they near France. Martin tells him about France, especially about Paris and his own negative experiences there. Candide says that he has no desire to go to France and invites Martin to accompany him to Venice. Martin accepts. As they are still discussing human nature, the ship arrives in Bordeaux, France.
Martin's philosophy and character are developed further in this chapter. Martin, especially in his jaundiced view of life and human nature, has been seen by some readers as a spokesman for Voltaire. But Voltaire has many spokesmen in Candide and his whole view of the world is not likely to be found in any single character. He reveals aspects of this view to you through different characters.
Martin is in some ways similar to Candide's previous companion, Cacambo. Like Cacambo, Martin is not shocked by human behavior. He finds it quite plausible, as did Cacambo, that girls should take monkeys as lovers. What other similarities can you find between Cacambo and Martin? What differences are there? Why did Voltaire replace Cacambo with Martin?
Chapter 21 is another bridge chapter, returning Candide to the Old World. Voltaire's satire of Parisian and French ways is introduced.
Candide donates his sheep to the Academy of Science in Bordeaux. Intrigued by the constant talk of Paris, he decides to go there before proceeding to Venice. When he and Martin arrive in Paris, he falls ill. He is waited on by various people, who hope to make a profit from his wealth- doctors, new-found friends, two pious ladies. When Candide finally recovers, an abbe from Perigord, a province in southwestern France, takes him under his wing. (In 18th-century France, an abbe was not necessarily an ordained cleric. Frequently he was a man who had studied theology and, therefore, could receive the honorary title of abbe. Candide and the abbe go to the theater, where Candide is moved by the performance of a tragedy. The other spectators are busy criticizing and discussing literature. The abbe and he then go to a fancy home in the fashionable Faubourg Saint-Honore neighborhood. Candide loses a great deal of money gambling at cards. Over dinner, the literary discussion begun at the theater continues, as do Candide's perennial philosophical questions. After dinner, Candide is seduced by his hostess.
After talking to the abbe about Cunegonde, Candide receives a letter from her; she tells him that she is in Paris, ill and penniless. Candide rushes to her, taking along gold and diamonds. Their reunion is interrupted by the police, who have been looking for the suspicious foreigners, Candide and Martin. Since Candide has not been allowed either to see Cunegonde or to hear her voice, Martin realizes that the girl isn't Cunegonde. The whole thing is a setup and everyone can be paid off. Candide and Martin leave for the port of Dieppe, where the brother of the police officer will arrange their departure from France.
Candide's stay in France, though brief, is treated in detail by Voltaire. Most of the chapter is devoted to a satire of the over-sophisticated society of Paris as witnessed by the simple foreigner, Candide. Some of the main themes of the work are reiterated- Voltaire's view of the clergy and philosophical optimism, and Martin's Manichean view of evil. But the point of this chapter seems to lie elsewhere.
Voltaire was a born-and-bred Parisian who was forced to live much of the time outside Paris. All his life, he had a classic love-hate relationship with his native city. This chapter seems to provide a forum for the author to present an ironic view of his own culture in a work set largely outside that culture. Voltaire's world view of corruption and evil is brought home here. Candide's innocence provides the perfect foil for the corruption of Paris.
NOTE: A large part of this chapter was added in 1761. Most of the long discussion at the theater and the entire scene at the home of the Marquise de Parolignac were added then, greatly expanding the satirical picture of the Parisian social and literary scene.
The chief characteristics of Parisian society as portrayed by Voltaire are its greed and its love of controversy for its own sake. Nearly everyone Candide meets in Paris is trying to take advantage of him. Candide's wealth brings out "friends" wherever he goes. The abbe from Perigord is the prototype of this venal aspect of Parisian society. He attaches himself to Candide in the guise of a friend, eager to guide him to the pleasures of Paris. But his motives are, in reality, purely financial. He gets a cut from Candide's losses at cards and from the sale of the diamonds that Candide gave to the marquise. He hopes to swindle Candide out of much more in the encounter with the false Cunegonde.
NOTE: The discussion of literature was a typical pastime in the Parisian salons of Voltaire's day. In these discussions, Voltaire voices some of his own opinions through his characters. The scholar's view of tragedy, for example, is close to Voltaire's own view of that art form. He also pokes fun at some of his personal opponents, particularly the literary journalist Freron, who made frequent attacks on Voltaire. His portrait of the professional critic, who derives no pleasure from art except that of condemning it, is contrasted with Candide's sincere delight at the play.
Many references in this chapter can be related to Voltaire's own life. What is important for you to understand is the general quality of his description of Paris, the main thrust of his satire. The details are interesting but not essential to your understanding of the work as a whole.
This chapter is also relevant to the development of Candide's character. In Chapter 19, in Surinam, Candide was in despair at the greed and dishonesty personified by Vanderdendur and the judge. Now, in Paris, he is again surrounded by greed and dishonesty. He is swindled at every turn. Candide's lack of sophistication makes him the prey of leeches like the abbe. At the end of the chapter, Candide runs from Paris. He is just happy to have escaped.
Martin says little in this chapter, but his remarks are always pointed and apt. What he does express is consistent with his cynical philosophy. He is never surprised at evil. Martin's cynicism and knowledge of human nature allow him to see through a situation like the setup at the end of the chapter. In his ability to size up a situation accurately and find a way out of a sticky problem, he is quite like Cacambo. He seems, in fact, to play a role similar to Cacambo's- as guide and adviser- but with an additional element, that of philosophical mentor and commentator.
Chapter 23 is a detour in a literal and figurative sense. England is hardly on the way to Venice, but Voltaire has his characters go out of their way to be able to treat a matter of great concern to him. As Candide and Martin approach Portsmouth Harbor in England, they witness the execution of a British admiral.
NOTE: A similar execution did take place in 1757. British Admiral John Byng was executed after being convicted of failing to engage his ship in a battle against the French near Minorca, Spain, the previous year. Voltaire had personally crusaded to stop the execution. Voltaire often raised his pen in defense of those he deemed oppressed or ill treated. One of the most celebrated cases that engaged his energies was that of Jean Calas, an elderly Protestant who was executed in Toulouse in 1762 for allegedly murdering his own son, (to prevent his conversion to Catholicism). Years later Calas was exonerated but in his "Treatise on Tolerance," Voltaire condemned Calas's wrongful conviction as a "great crime."
The execution of the admiral brings the theme of war to the forefront again. At the beginning of the chapter, when Martin compares the relative craziness of the French and English, he raises the subject of war. He cites the futility of the war between the two countries over Canada, "a few acres of snow," as an indication of mutual insanity. The absurdity of the rules of war can be seen in Candide's observation that, though the French admiral was equally as far from the British admiral as the British was from him, the French admiral was not executed.
Candide is horrified at the admiral's execution and refuses to set foot on shore. He pays the ship's captain to take him directly to Venice, where he will be reunited with his beloved Cunegonde. At the end of this short chapter, Candide's faith in Cacambo and his hope of seeing Cunegonde renew his optimism. It is an optimism, however, based precariously on hope. In Chapter 24, you will see how long it lasts.
After several months, Candide and Martin are still in Venice, waiting for Cacambo and Cunegonde. Candide, initially hopeful, begins to despair. He fears that Cunegonde may be dead. Martin believes that Cacambo has run off with the money and advises Candide to forget about Cunegonde and Cacambo.
One day, while walking in town, Candide and Martin meet a happy-looking couple, a pretty girl and a monk. Candide believes that they, at least, must be happy. Naturally, Martin disagrees. To settle their argument, they invite the couple to dinner.
Back at the inn, the girl says that she is Paquette, the baroness's maid and the source of Pangloss's pox. After leaving castle Thunder-ten-tronckh, Paquette was the unhappy mistress of several men. She has now turned to prostitution and is a miserable creature, with no hope for the future. The monk, Brother Giroflee, turns out to be unhappy also, forced into a vocation for which he has no calling and which he detests. Candide admits that he has lost the argument and sends the two off with money. Martin insists that the money will make them only more miserable. Candide and Martin make plans to visit Lord Pococurante, reputedly a happy man.
Candide's hopeful mood at the end of Chapter 23 is waning. After months of fruitless searching and waiting, he is once again sinking into the melancholy and despair he felt in Surinam. Martin's skepticism does nothing to lighten his mood.
Martin's role in this chapter is puzzling. He is Candide's constant companion, but he does little to relieve his friend's unhappiness. In fact, he only increases it. At this point, he seems to be a true counterbalance to Pangloss.
At the beginning of the novel, Pangloss taught Candide that all is for the best. Here, Martin seems to be doing the opposite, trying to teach Candide that all is misery, and that people, without exception, are unhappy. In the case of Pangloss, events constantly proved him wrong. Here, events only seem to reinforce the correctness of Martin's view. Once again it seems that Martin's view of the world is accurate. Or is Voltaire just emphasizing how strong Candide's belief in optimism still is?
Candide and Martin are still testing the old woman's hypothesis that all people are unhappy. Martin calmly defends it again and again. But Candide hopes to disprove it. He wants to find a happy man. Candide's optimism is difficult to destroy. He reads the meeting with Paquette as another omen that he may yet find Cunegonde.
Martin makes two predictions in the chapter. The first is that Cacambo will not return because he has run off with Candide's money. The other is that Candide's money will make Paquette and Brother Giroflee only more unhappy. See what comes of these predictions later. They may help to clarify Voltaire's view of Martin and pessimism.
NOTE: Two recurring messages of Candide are highlighted in the characters of Brother Giroflee and Paquette. Brother Giroflee is yet another corrupted clergyman, but with a slight twist. This "amoral" monk is seen as a victim of the system that forced him into the monastery, not as a "bad" man.
Paquette, too, is seen more as a "victim" than as a "bad" person. Notice the similarities between Paquette's story and the old woman's. Like the old woman, Paquette goes from one man to another. Also like the old woman, she envisions an unhappy end for herself when her beauty fades. Paquette continues Voltaire's portrait of women as objects used and discarded by men.
In Chapter 24, Voltaire is paving the way for the conclusion of Candide. Martin's dialogues with Candide are helping to demolish the last vestiges of optimism. Candide's last illusion and last hope is Cunegonde. What will become of this dream is yet to be seen.
Candide and Martin visit Lord Pococurante, a Venetian nobleman, in his beautiful palace. They are served chocolate by two beautiful girls, whom Pococurante finds boring. They discuss art, literature, and music with the Venetian. Pococurante, however, finds little pleasure in any of these subjects: He disparages the great masters and proclaims his own independence of taste. As they leave the nobleman's palace, Candide says to Martin that Pococurante must be happy, because he is above everything he owns. Martin disagrees, pointing out that a man who finds no pleasure in what he has cannot be deemed happy. Weeks pass, with no word from Cunegonde or Cacambo; Candide grows increasingly unhappy.
Chapter 25 is, in a sense, a digression, having little to do, on the surface, with the main body of the story. Here, Voltaire, through his characters' discussion of literature and the arts, allows himself to voice some of his own opinions about literature. Yet, the chapter serves a useful function in the narration- to introduce the character Pococurante, a man of taste and independent judgment. Martin admires his qualities and even agrees with many of his opinions. Candide, on the other hand, unaccustomed to forming his own opinions, is shocked by Pococurante's independence. Up until this point, he himself has always had a teacher and a guide in forming his opinions. Keep this in mind when you read Chapter 30.
But even Martin, admiring as he is of Pococurante, does not fail to see the negative aspect of the nobleman. Pococurante has everything, but his life is empty. He enjoys nothing; he is bored. His name sums up all that is wrong with him- Pococurante, caring little. Martin, cynic and pessimist that he is, sees that Pococurante's lack of involvement in life is no answer to the misery of life.
NOTE: ARTISTIC AND LITERARY REFERENCES.
One evening, on the way to supper, Candide and Martin finally run into Cacambo, who has become a slave to a Turkish sultan. He tells them to be prepared to leave Venice with him after supper. Cacambo informs Candide that Cunegonde is not in Venice but in Constantinople (Istanbul).
Candide and Martin then have dinner with six foreigners, all of whom are dethroned kings come to celebrate the pre-Lenten season (carnival) in Venice. Each tells his story. Candide presents the most destitute of the former kings with a generous gift.
Cacambo's reappearance here is a variation of the mysterious encounters in earlier chapters. Here, the mystery is not the identity of the character; you know almost immediately that the man who approaches Candide is Cacambo. But the sense of mystery is still there: Why is Cacambo a slave? Why is Cunegonde in Constantinople? These questions are left unanswered.
The main focus of this chapter is the encounter with the six dethroned kings, all of whom are real historical figures. As the kings tell their stories of realms lost, often by violence, the idea of fate, or providence, is raised. You know how some of these kings were dethroned- by war or revolution- but you don't know why. If anything, you are left with a sense of the capriciousness of fate. A man can be king one day and in prison the next. These six kings (and the four others who enter the inn as Candide leaves) create an image of an unstable world. Their stories illustrate the same rise and fall of fortunes that are evident in Candide's own story. All, in the words of the Polish king, have had to submit to providence.
NOTE: The scene illustrates how carefully structured Voltaire's seemingly casual, fluid style is. At the beginning, each stranger, to the growing amazement of the others, is addressed as "Your Majesty" by his servant. A comic ritual is created as each servant steps forward to speak to his master. The sixth servant adds a typical Voltairean ironic twist: His "Majesty" is broke, so he plans to abandon him. The ritual continues as each king speaks his piece, ending with the formula "I have come to spend the carnival season at Venice." This time it is the sixth king who adds the twist. The others are deposed but rich; he is on his way to debtors' prison! The repetitive structure of the whole dinner creates a comic effect in what would otherwise have been a series of tragic tales.
On their way to Constantinople, Candide and Martin discuss their encounter with the six kings. Candide is once again proclaiming that all is for the best. His surge of optimism, however, is tempered by Cacambo's story. Cacambo tells how, after ransoming Cunegonde, he was robbed of the remainder of the money Candide had given him by a pirate who then sold him and Cunegonde into slavery. Cunegonde is now washing dishes for an impoverished, exiled king. To top it all off, she has grown horribly ugly. Candide is dismayed at this news, but he vows that he must love Cunegonde forever.
In Constantinople, Candide buys Cacambo's freedom. Then he, Martin, and Cacambo set sail for the shores of Propontis (Sea of Marmara). On the galley, they see two familiar faces among the slaves, Pangloss and the young baron. (Their stories will be told in the next chapter.) They return to Constantinople. Candide ransoms the baron and Pangloss, and they once again set sail for Propontis.
At this point in Candide, the momentum begins to build toward the conclusion. Important themes of the novel are referred to: the capriciousness of fate in Cacambo's story, Candide's continued attachment to optimism, the universality of human misery as voiced by Martin.
The major characters of the novel reassemble. Pangloss and the baron are found among the galley slaves. Cacambo, who appeared briefly in Chapter 26, now tells his story. The loose ends of the tale begin to be tied. This process will continue in Chapters 28 and 29.
NOTE: The characters of Pangloss and the baron, when they re-enter the story, are essentially unchanged from what they were when they left it. You can see the lack of change if you compare their behavior when they are ransomed by Candide. Pangloss is effusive, swelling with gratitude. The baron reacts with a cool nod. Yet, both have lived through extraordinary adventures, as you will see in Chapter 28.
On the way to Propontis, the baron and Pangloss recount their adventures. After being cured of his wounds, the baron was captured by the Spaniards, jailed briefly in Buenos Aires, and then sent to Constantinople. There, he made the great mistake of bathing naked with a Turkish page boy, another reference to his homosexuality. He was arrested and sent to the galleys- to do hard labor as an oarsman on a galley, or ship.
Pangloss survived his hanging because the executioner, accustomed only to burning his victims, had tied the noose poorly. Pangloss only lost consciousness. His "body" was purchased by a surgeon for dissection. When the surgeon began to dissect him, Pangloss awoke with a scream. After recovering from his shock, the surgeon cured Pangloss and found him a job. The philosopher was in Constantinople, working for a merchant, when he, too, made a great mistake. He put a bouquet of flowers back on the half-exposed breast of a young lady, whence it fell while she was praying. He suffered the same fate as the young baron and ended up chained to the same bench in the galley. The two have been arguing every since about which of them was the greater victim of injustice. Pangloss, however, still clings to his optimist philosophy.
More loose ends are tied in Chapter 28 as the baron and Pangloss explain how they escaped death. On the Turkish galley, the two men argue endlessly and are constantly beaten for talking. Each is so eager to prove his superior claim to misery and injustice that the actual punishment makes no impression on them.
Remember the contest for the most miserable man in Surinam held by Candide? There, the most miserable man was at least to be rewarded by Candide. Here, the argument's pointlessness is brought home vividly, since it brings Pangloss and the baron nothing but further misery.
But Pangloss clings unbelievably to his belief in optimism. Notice the difference between him and Candide. Candide reacts to circumstances, so his optimism wavers. He asks questions and has doubts when things go bad. When he defends optimism, he is reacting to what he has seen or experienced. He tries in some way to tie his belief to reality, to his observations. Pangloss's faith, on the other hand, is blind. Reality does not shake it.
The travelers arrive in Propontis and find Cunegonde and the old woman doing laundry by the shore. Candide is horrified at how ugly Cunegonde has become. He ransoms the two women and buys them all a small farm to tide them over. A man of honor, Candide asks the baron for Cunegonde's hand. The baron refuses and Candide loses his temper.
The last of the major characters are reassembled in Chapter 29. It also recalls some events of previous chapters. The old woman's description of herself in Chapter 11 is reflected in the way Cunegonde looks in Chapter 29. Their fates have been similar; Cunegonde, ravaged by time and harsh experience, is now a servant. Candide's new proposal of marriage recalls the first time he asked the baron's permission to marry Cunegonde in South America.
But Candide has obviously changed since those days. Then, he reacted physically to the baron's arrogance. He struck him with his sword. Here, Candide reacts verbally by losing his temper. Underlying this exterior difference is a more important psychological difference. In Chapter 15, Candide was respectful, even deferential, to the baron. After he stabbed him, he was filled with remorse. Now, he has only scorn for the baron, whom he considers an ungrateful idiot. The respectful Candide has given way here to the independent Candide, who speaks his own mind. This change is important to the resolution of Candide's story in Chapter 30.
The young baron is sent back to the galleys to finish his sentence. Candide marries Cunegonde, and everyone settles down on a farm. They are all bored, except Cacambo, who is overworked. Only Martin, who is convinced that nobody is particularly happy anywhere, is able to take things in stride. The group is completed by the arrival of Paquette and Brother Giroflee, once again reduced to poverty.
As usual, the process of philosophical discussion continues. Finally, they decide to consult the "best" philosopher in Turkey. When he hears their questions about evil and the meaning of life, he slams the door in their faces.
On the way home they meet an old man and his family. The old man is entirely ignorant of philosophy and politics. He is content in his simple life, based on work and the fruits of one's labor. Candide reflects on the family's life and decides that he, too, must cultivate his garden. All decide to abandon philosophizing and to work the farm. They each find their niche and, despite Pangloss's occasional attempts to philosophize, quietly go on with living.
At the beginning of Chapter 30, all the loose ends of the story are tied together, but the group is still unhappy. A new element of torment has entered their lives- boredom. The old woman implies that this suffering may be the worst of all.
The story of Candide ends with the members of the farm community dedicating themselves to productive work. In the course of Chapter 30, two important encounters take place that influence Candide's decision- the encounter with the Turkish philosopher (the dervish) and the encounter with the old man.
Candide, Martin, and Pangloss are looking for advice when they visit the dervish, a devout member of a Muslim religious order. His advice is simple: "Hold your tongue." The dervish wants no part of Pangloss's systems and abstractions. And in his refusal to answer directly Candide's questions about evil, the dervish appears to deny man's ability to find the answers to certain age-old questions. Is Voltaire, in the role of the "best philosopher in Turkey," denying the validity of all philosophy, of any attempt to systematize reality? Is his answer to the question of evil in the world simply that it's not worth asking?
The second encounter provides the positive element needed for Candide and his two companions to resolve their problem. The dervish showed them what they didn't need. The good old man, through his example, is able to show them what they ought do. They must cultivate their garden.
What cultivating one's garden implies is the great question in Candide. Some readers have seen the garden as a retreat from the world, a symbolic turning of one's back on corruption and evil. Such retreat appears to be a mark of pessimism- the world is evil and there is nothing you can do about it. It can also be seen in a more positive way- by concentrating contentedly on one's own domain, however limited, one can hope to improve at least a corner of the world. Other readers see the conclusion as Voltaire's rejection of philosophy's effectiveness and a call to action. Man's role on earth is to do, not to worry about why he is here or why evil exists. Such a conclusion might seem to cast doubt on the meaning of Voltaire's life as a philosopher. Do you think Voltaire had this in mind? Or, would he distinguish between fighting injustice with words and merely arguing about its causes?
NOTE: The commitment to action was labeled by some "meliorism." It stated that people, through reason, can devise a means of improving both society and the individual's condition in society. This belief in progress, and in the positive power of human reason, was common to the 18th century, often called the era of the Enlightenment. All may not always be for the best, but people can work to make things better. By doing your part to improve conditions, instead of merely preaching, you may even influence others. Some would say that by selling the fruits of their "garden" to the city, Candide and his friends are symbolically spreading their ideas to the outside world.
The conclusion of Candide would not be possible without certain changes that have taken place in Candide himself. Through his experiences, Candide has realized the impossibility of philosophical optimism. But he also rejects both the pessimism and cynicism that he has observed do not bring contentment. Candide arrives at his own solution, based on observation and experience. He has developed the ability to judge for himself. In Chapter 30 he may still rely on the old woman for advice in practical matters, but he makes his final decision about life alone, after personal reflection. That his decision is a wise one is suggested when the others agree to go along with him. Everyone realizes that it is time to stop talking and start doing.
The implications of Candide's decision can be interpreted in different ways. Nevertheless, certain aspects of the story's conclusion are inescapable: Philosophical optimism is not a viable explanation for life; the existence of evil in the world has no satisfactory explanation; observation and experience are better teachers than philosophy.
Although people today would generally agree with these conclusions, there is still much debate on the proper responses to injustice, poverty, and evil in the form of war and genocide. Some people think these evils will always exist; others think they can be eliminated by radical solutions. And still others, like Candide, look toward gradual improvements as the only solution. The questions that Voltaire posed in the 18th century are still with us.
What solutions would you propose for problems in your community, like crime, poverty, or ignorance? In what way are your answers similar to or different from Martin, Dr. Pangloss, and the Candide of Chapter 30?
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