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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. The protagonist of the novel is Candide. It is presumed that he is the son of the Baronís sister who has refused to marry his father because she considers his lineage inferior to hers. He is kicked out of the castle because he and Cunégonde love each other. After that he goes through a series of adventures. He thereby learns about the various aspects of life. Throughout the novel his aim is to find and marry Cunégonde. He finally succeeds. He matures from an innocent boy to an experienced and practical person.


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all. There are many antagonists in this novel. In the first chapter the reader encounters the Baron and his son. The Baron kicks out Candide from his castle when he sees that Candide and Cunégonde are in love. Later, the Baronís son tries to prevent Candide from marrying Cunégonde regardless of their immense love for each other. Don Fernando, the governor of Buenos Ayres proposes to Cunégonde. Then he keeps her as his mistress and sells her to Cacambo for two million. Pangloss who poses to be a very intelligent man deludes innocent people with his foolish fantasies of optimism. Thus he plays an antagonistic role to that extent. Numerous other people who cause murder, rape, castration, slave trade, and prostitution are very harmful to the welfare of the society. They too are antagonists.


The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. Climax is reached in Chapter 29 of the novel when Candide finds Cunégonde for the last time. She is ugly and no longer desirable. She is keen that Candide should marry her. The Baron vehemently opposes the marriage. Candide is equally adamant. He says that he must do his duty to protect her. He is determined to marry her though he no longer desires her.


The outcome is the realization of reality. Candide and most of his colleagues realize at the end of the novel that life is neither all pleasant nor all bad. Candide realizes the shallowness of Panglossís philosophy. He now believes that one can be reasonably happy and comfortable through hardwork and honesty. They thus decide to cultivate their own garden on the farm, which Candide has bought. They all work and take responsibility. They realize that there is still hope for a peaceful life. Work drives away three great evils --boredom, vice and poverty.


Candide means innocent. Candide is a very innocent young man living in the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia. Some of the old servants believe that he is the son of the Baronís sister. The Baronís sister refuses to marry Candideís father because his degree of nobility is less than hers.

Candide lacks knowledge of the outside world. He believes that this castle is the best place to live in. He considers it ideal. One day he and Cunégonde, the Baronís daughter are seen in romantic positions. So he is kicked and thrown out of the castle.

Candide goes through many adventures. Some of them are funny, some are sad, and some are eerie. His eyes open to reality. He sees that everything does not happen for the best as the philosophers and metaphysician Pangloss had told him in the Baronís castle. In Europe as well as in America, he encounters misery. He meets a number of people from various walks of life. He comes across many philosophers ranging from extreme optimism of Pangloss to the bleak pessimism of Martin. He experiences the love and total selflessness of Jacques and also the extreme cruelty and selfishness of the drunken sailor. He experiences the kindness of the old lady who happens to be the daughter of the Pope and a princess. She is always ready to help though she has gone through tremendous suffering herself.

When Candide reaches Eldorado he feels peace. It is a truly peaceful and happy place full of contented people. It is an earthly paradise. Yet he leaves it quickly to go in search of his beloved Cunégonde. He meets her in a castle. He meets her again Constantinople. He adores her and yearns for her all the time. It is by sheer chance or luck that he does not stay in any place for long. He often finds Cunégonde and loses her. Again the search for Cunégonde continues. He is ready to sacrifice anything in order to get her. Her memory fills him with hope and joy. Amidst all the turmoil that he faces, he feels life is still worth living and searching for Cunégonde.

Finally Candide finds Cunégonde and does not lose her. She has become extremely ugly. She insists that he should marry her. Her brother vehemently opposes their marriage. The reason he states is that their children will not be noble enough since Candideís lineage is not as noble as hers. Candideís is provoked by the Baronís defiance and Cunégondeís insistence.

After a period of uncertainty and boredom, Candide, Cunégonde, Martin, Pangloss, Paguette, the old lady, and Girofle live on the farm purchased by Candide. They are quite satisfied. From their numerous experiences, they have realized that they must cultivate their own garden. They know by the end of the novel that the only way to happiness is honesty and hard work and not vague philosophy and baseless illusions.

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