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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 17 - Arrival of Candide and his valet in the country of Eldorado and what they saw there
They realize that the hemisphere they are in is no better than the other is. Cacambo suggests that they go back to Europe by the shortest road. Candide yearns to go to Cunégonde. They proceed to Cayenne in French Guiana. They encounter terrible obstacles. Finally Cacambo suggests that they drift downstream in their boat. They do so. After a variety of scenery they disappear beneath a fearsome arch of rocks. Their boat disintegrates on the reefs. At last they reach a vast area ringed by inaccessible mountains. Every thing is beautiful. Graceful people pass along the splendid roads in carriages drawn by llamas -‘red sheep’ which move faster than horses.
Some children in torn golden clothes drop jewels, which they have been playing with. Their teacher smiles in surprise when Candide hands them over to him. Cacambo is surprised when the innkeeper refuses to accept payment (especially in the golden ‘pebbles’ found on the road) after serving them a good meal. Candide feels that Eldorado is an ideal place. He now realizes that Pangloss was wrong about Westphalia. Everything often went wrong in Westphalia.
The word Eldorado means ‘the golden one’ in Spanish. It is a place where there is plenty of gold. It symbolizes an ideal state, which a person can desire or imagine. It is a place of perfection. It must be noted that Candide and Cacambo go through a tedious and dangerous journey before reaching this place. This indicates that the ideal state of existence is remote, distant, and almost impossible to achieve.
Voltaire got the idea of the fabled land of Eldorado from Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Discoverie of the Large and Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana, which was first published in 1595. Raleigh described it as a fabulous country possessing towering mountains and plenty of wealth. Voltaire was influenced by the works of Sir Thomas More and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels also. In Sir Thomas More’s works he could have come across happy and contented people who were grateful to God and sang hymns in his praise, rather than crave for anything more and more.
The danger of the journey to Eldorado is in keeping with the tradition of the romantic story. It emphasizes the remoteness of the ideal. It is not merely the ideal state that a man desires. It symbolizes that ideal state which a man should aim at, even though Candide’s garden at his farm proves to be a more realistic goal.
CHAPTER 18 - What they saw in the land of Eldorado
At Eldorado Candide and Cacambo meet an old man aged 172, in his simple home. The door of his home is made only of silver and the paneling is of gold. He explains that Eldorado was once the kingdom of Incas. The antechamber is encrusted with rubies and emeralds. Everything is arranged with utmost simplicity. He tells them that some people went away to conquer a part of the world and were destroyed by the Spaniards. Those who remained in Eldorado vowed never to leave it. They remained innocent and happy. They thank and praise one God. They do not have monks that burn people who disagree with them.
In a magnificent palace Candide and Cacambo are welcomed. The king has no vanity and he receives them graciously. In Eldorado they are shown splendid public buildings, fountains of sweet liquids and the place where sciences progress. There are no churches, prisons, courts, or parliament. There is no need for them. It is a much better place than Westphalia. Yet, Candide wishes to leave it and go in search of Cunégonde. With the King’s permission they take a few sheep, some pebbles and golden mud. Candide and Cacambo are helped by scientists who enable them to reach on top of the mountain along with their valuables, which they have taken from Eldorado. Candide plans to buy a kingdom after buying Cunégonde from the governor of Buenos Ayres.
The reference to a man aged 172 indicates that it is possible for the people in Eldorado to have a long and happy life. The man is living happily and comfortably in his simple home. There is so much wealth available-rubies, emeralds, silver and gold. Yet people are not infatuated by it.
Voltaire had respect for age and the experience that comes with age. He took many historical details from a Spanish book by Garcillasso de la Vega (1535-1616) and from the expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh.
The Spanish had a tremendous greed for gold. This ruined Incas, which represents the dream country of Eldorado. Eldorado is free from disasters. People have good taste, gratitude, contentment, and tolerance. Science flourishes. Scientists are able to lift Candide, Cacambo, and their valuables above the mountain.
In this chapter, Voltaire concentrates on the positive side of God’s creation. He emphasizes the positive characteristics of human beings. This is rare in this novel, as the entire novel is a satire on society. Eldorado has a society based on human conscience. Therefore, there are no churches, prisons, law- courts or monks. There is no need for them. In reality, life can never be as simple as in Eldorado, but one can at least make it less complicated than it generally is.
In spite of the peace and comfort, Candide does not stay here for long. He yearns to go back to Cunégonde. He wishes to buy her from the governor of Buenos Ayres. Then he wishes to buy a kingdom. In this chapter, the reader can see the tremendous love Candide has for his beloved Cunégonde. He is ready to leave Eldorado, a paradise on earth, so as to achieve Cunégonde.