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Summary of Candide by Voltaire

Updated October 7, 2021
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Summary of Candide by Voltaire essay

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The great philosopher Voltaire wrote a novel like some kind of nonsense story. The novel is named after the protagonist Candide. But at the same time, in French Candide has a meaning of pure and honest. The whole book is quite similar to the title “Candide”, because it has allegorical nature, and the character encounters bizarre. The plot of this novel is ridiculous, but that is Voltaire’s deliberately written result, in order to discuss his philosophical view.

When Candide fell in love with the baron’s daughter, Cunégonde. Candide is just an illegimate nephew of the baron. Candide kissed her after helping Cunégonde pick up his handkerchief, and he could not stop thinking about her. The union was more dramatic: Candide didn’t want to marry Cunégonde, but the baron’s brutal obstruction angered him and he felt obliged to marry, so he punished the Baron and married Cunégonde regardless of the social status to finally marrying her in order to gamble with the baron, these descriptions strongly show his rebellious character

Candide’s rebellious personality has also changed to some extent throughout the story. After he fell in love with Cunegonde, he was only doing this unconscious rebellion action driven by human nature, then probably he was irritated by the Baron and insisted on marrying Cunegonde. It became a complete psychological challenge and also a challenge to the declining loyalty class represented by the Baron and its hierarchy status. This change is because he has become more courageous in all kinds of sufferings. On the other hand, because the status of Baron has completely destroyed, and the baron who has become a lower class no longer has the power to stop or control Candide any more.

Candide is constantly questioning about Pang loss’s optimism. During Candide’s Journey, he encountered many difficulties, each of the problem which made him unceasingly doubt about optimism. Although he persuaded himself again and again to dispel this idea which was contrary to the teacher’s idea, his doubts over many times finally completely dispelled his worship towards optimism.

One important reason he gave up on optimism is the suffering of life. More importantly, he has a self-consciousness that dares to question himself. Therefore, his attitude toward disaster is suspicious, not the self-paralysis of the use of ‘personal difficulties bring all happiness’ like Pang loss’s

From this point of view, he is not at all like the beginning of the story which describes he is an innocent guy. Deep down his heart is actually bold and brave, but it’s buried under the cruel social pressure, once there is a suitable free soil, his spiritual world will produce great turbulence.

Candide’s murder under several impulses and his attitude towards life has changed.     Candide committed to three murders throughout the story, sometimes to save Miss Cunegonde, but also to get out of his difficult situation. When the author wrote the process of his murder, Voltaire used a very dramatic language, which made us feel that every murder of Candide is forced and helpless. Every time after killing, he is always panicked and scared. But murder itself is enough to explain his inner anxiety and courage to do things. He will decisively choose to defend his own interests and benefits, although he does not intentionally want to take away others right to live.

In dealing with things, he is not completely “innocent” and dead-headed, he will also choose a number of ways to their own advantage. For instance, in a war, he would take advantage of the opportunity of a melee between two armies and escape. Even when he is arrested, he will also use money to control them to get what he want, when he is wealthy, he will contact the upper class and appendage elegance to show his status. Although this practice is not absolute injustice, but some have gone beyond what we can accept. We can see that Candide is not really innocent and stupid, and he has no strict moral bottom line.

The impure character of protagonist contrasts sharply with the title of the novel Candide. From a literary point of view, it is not only a contradiction of the work itself, but also a good stroke which makes the work achieve a more satire feeling, and it’s also a method full of black humor. The way that the work describes Candide’s personality makes the novel reveal more profound social significance with more powerful words besides expressing its theme. Through understanding the different sides of the protagonists character, we can see that the depth of this work and the also the author’s skillful writing skills.

The author portrays a pure but inflexible, brave but fearful, compassionate and enthusiastic person who takes advantage of money and power, approaches the lower classes of society, but likes to put on high self-esteem these writings make the novel more realistic and readable, which creates a real person in front of the readers, and make the situation in the novel feel connected to the reality.

At the same time, the multiple portrayal of such a figure can also be regarded as part of the author’s excavation-of human. The people in the author’s works are not the people swept by the social trend, but the people who are given full humanistic care and allowed to be defective and complete.

After he escaped from the castle, he could not see Candide. So he felt there is no point of living. At that time, he felt that if she could marry her and live with her, he would have nothing to ask for. At the end of the novel, he got his wish, but he still felt that life was uninteresting. The novel used a similar model to eliminate the charm of all Vanity Fair goods such as money, power and sex.

Throughout the story happening, Candide once got the endless jewels in the Eldorado country, but few days later he lost all his wealth. At the Venice Carnival, he met six kings who lost their supreme power and is captive. But in the end everything will become inevitable that it will disappear. One of the TedEd Speech “Will Winning the lottery make you happier?” is this speech the answer is No. Because after winning the lottery most of the people will celebrate for few days and get crazy. Interestingly, after few months, the happiness level will gradually get back to the days before they won the lottery. This shows that luxurious house or anything that is related to pursue material life will not provide long lasting happiness.

At the end of the novel, Candide was very disappointed and he asked some advice from the old farmer. The farmer said that those who are chasing material life are unhappy. But on the other hand, it tells us that if you are part of the society it is very easy to be contaminated. The farmer also said you must keep a distance from the society if you want to stay away from the society. For example, Eldorado is a place full of gold and wealth, but people in Eldorado are not affected by the outside world, Because Eldorado is separated from the outside world. In addition to that, the farmer tells his own experience to Candide, he inspires Candide to find a field and start farming. What matters is not the position that you got, but whether the position fits you. The Baron’s daughter was pampered once, so from a secular point of view the fact that she became a pastry chef is supposed to feel humiliated, however, she was satisfied about what she was doing. Why is that? Because to be in a castle is just another form of prison for her and baking is what she is really good at and belongs to.

This novel ends with Candide’s reply to his teacher Pangloss. He said “This is very well put, but we must cultivate our garden.” Instead of pursuing endless philosophy like Pangloss, it is better to find your own garden and start farming which will fulfill our stomach and also satisfy our aesthetic needs.

Works Cited

  1. Raghunathan, Raj. “Will winning the lottery make you happy?” Ted-Ed, 7 Feb 2017,
  2. https://ed.ted.com/lessons/would-winning-the-lottery-make-you-happier-raj-raghunathan
  3. Voltaire, “Candide” The Norton Anthology
Summary of Candide by Voltaire essay

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