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Free Study Guide-Candide by Voltaire-Free Online Book Notes Summary
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The language shows Candide’s progress towards maturity. In the beginning of the novel the reader finds compact, colorful and crisp sentences as Candide, the hero rushes through life. Later Voltaire adopts a calm and reflective style analogous to Candide’s mental development. Voltaire makes fun of the language of shallow philosophers who use a jargon of words and do not present anything worthwhile. Pangloss is Candide is a concrete example of such philosophers. Voltaire sometimes uses a word or an expression, which is exactly the opposite of what he wants to say.

Voltaire criticizes his contemporary society through his characters. Every detail of characterization heightens the essential mood. Even though his satire is intense, he gives a message of hope, which is far superior to Pangloss’s foolish optimism and baseless philosophy.

Towards the end of his career, Voltaire was awarded as the most brilliant member of the French academy. Voltaire has a tremendous sense of sentence rhythm. Short sentences abound. Even the long ones do not extend beyond modest proportions. He keeps the patterns symmetrical. He concludes his statements effectively. He does not allow his characters to linger in illusive idealism. He suddenly brings them down to earth.

Verbs are used continually to maintain the constant continuity of the story. The reader reads with rapt attention wondering what will happen next. Voltaire evokes a variety of moods. There are humor and comic incidents though the thread of tragedy runs throughout the novel. His vivid style is a reflection of the various aspects of real life itself. His ironic style suits his own view of life. He uses satire to expose the evils in society.

The hero, along with some other characters, moves from one event to another, or from one place to another. Co-incidents abound to such an extent that the reader is frequently reminded of movie stories and TV serials.

The other characters are mere puppets or caricatures. They represent certain types. Most of the characters have names, which represent their characteristics. Candide means candid or innocent. Pangloss is all-tongue. He talks too much with very little sense. Pococurante means the one who hardly cares. Cunégonde is oversexed as her name indicates. Cacambo is a name derived from ‘Caca’-‘beau.’ He revels in filth and beauty. Vanderdendur has ‘hard teeth.’ Men with a clear philosophy of life have simple names like Jacques and Martin. Also, there are characters who do not have names, such as the old woman, the priest and so on. They are mere symbols.

Voltaire had mastered the technique of judicious repetition. "All is well" is an expression, which runs throughout Candide. The word ‘for’ is also repeated. "For, he said, all is for the best. For if there is a volcano in Lisbon it couldn’t be anywhere else. For it is impossible for things not to be where they are. For all is well." The logic of such a sentence is unconvincing. Yet the author beautifully handles the dialogue.

Humor in Candide

Humor is a necessary characteristic in this novel. Voltaire has been critical of his contemporary society in a satirical manner. This criticism would be too bitter if he had not interspersed it with humor. It is like covering a bitter pill with a sweet coating, so as to make it easy to swallow.

Voltaire has used a variety of comic elements. The characterization, structure, and style help the author to express his ideas in a humorous manner. The names of characters are often funny and relevant to their behavior and the situations to which they are subjected. They unwittingly express what they would like to hide. Cunégonde is unable to conceal her sensuality. The Baron’s son is unable to hide his homosexual tendencies. Pangloss’s talk shows that he is wrong though he does not admit it.

The comic situations create a zany world. Most of it is farcical. The ‘experimental physics,’ the eunuch’s frustration, the missing buttock of the Pope’s daughter, the relationship between the two pretty girls and the monkeys are vulgar and disgusting. Yet they are funny and, therefore, tolerable to the reader.

Some of the language used is simple mockery. The German names parody the guttural sounds of the language. There is gentle irony typifying the breathless ecstasy of loves or the empty superlatives used by optimists. There are unconvincing co-incidences throughout the novel. The narrow escape of Pangloss and the Baron’s son are ridiculous and unbelievable. There is grim humor when both kings sing a victory hymn ‘Te Deum,’ and when the second earthquake takes place soon after the auto-da-fé.

Many characters and situations are unbelievable but he ideas they represent are real. The reader can judge the novel in a detached manner because of the humor it is interspersed with. Voltaire educates the reader about superstition, hypocrisy, false pride, and sexual immorality leading to prostitution. Humor makes the reading about such serious topics tolerable.


Some characters places and situations in this novel have a symbolic significance. Symbolism provides meaning and effect in a literary work. Symbols lend clarity, vividness, and suggestiveness.

Eldorado symbolizes the ideal, which every person desires. It is a state of happiness and perfection. It is also a state, which should be aimed at. Only then one can get at least some of the joys of Eldorado. Paris is in absolute contrast to Eldorado. It is full of chaos and discontent. Candide becomes sick in Paris. Paris symbolizes a sick French society. So does Candide’s illness. When he goes to England, he is better. Voltaire too was unhappy in France and better in England.

Candide means innocent. He is very innocent and charming. He is a symbol of innocence itself. Paquette suffers from Syphilis and she infects Pangloss. She becomes a prostitute. She is a symbol of disease and the morbid society, which is full of vices. The old lady symbolizes suffering. She has suffered intensely going through the most inhuman treatment. Those who rape her and some other women along with her, symbolize the savagery prevailing at that time.

The Baron is killed with many of his family members. His castle is razed to the ground. This symbolizes the fall of aristocracy which Voltaire wished for. It is an expression of his wish and his hatred for aristocracy since he and many other people suffered at the hands of aristocrats.

Cunégonde is an extremely pretty young girl at the beginning of the novel. She is very ugly by the end of it. She symbolizes the transitoriness of youth and beauty. Her beauty symbolizes the perfection which Candide craves for; and which any man would crave for. Her ugliness symbolizes his shattered dreams and the reality of the imperfection of life.

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Free Study Guide-Candide by Voltaire-Free Online Book Notes Summary


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