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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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How Candide was brought up in a noble castle and how he was expelled from the same


In the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia, lives a young man named Candide. Many old servants in the castle suspect that the Baron’s sister is the mother of Candide. She refuses to marry Candide’s father because his nobility is of a lesser degree than hers is.

The Baron’s court consists of local villagers. His family is very snobbish. His beautiful daughter Cunégonde is tutored by a teacher named Dr. Pangloss. Her mother is dignified and her brother is a ‘worthy’ son of his father. According to Pangloss, all that happens is for the best and for some purpose. Noses are made so that one can wear glasses. Feet are made so that one can wear shoes. Stones are there, so that one can make castles and ‘therefore’ the Baron’s castle is the best possible castle.

Candide does not understand much of his teachings. Cunégonde distracts his attention. One day Cunégonde finds Pangloss physically involved with a chambermaid. She immediately decides to experience such ‘causes and effects.’ She thus drops a handkerchief hoping that Candide will pick it up. Their knees tremble, hands wander. Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh sees them. Thus Candide is thrown out of the castle after being kicked hard and frequently Cunégonde swoons. When she recovers, the Baroness slaps her on her face.


The proud and pompous Baron, Thunder-ten-tronckh resembles Fredrick the Great with whom Voltaire had close connection for a long time. The Baron’s son is vain and very powerful. Candide resembles Voltaire in many ways. The name Candide suggests innocence. Cunégonde represents Madam de Chatelet whom Voltaire loved dearly. He was considerably influenced by her. The word Pangloss means “all tongue.” In fact, Pangloss is very talkative although his talk rarely makes sense. He is supposed to be a philosopher and a very learned man. His philosophy is quite incomprehensive. Voltaire has used him to attack excessively optimistic philosophy. He has also attacked the snobbery of the aristocratic people. The Baron’s sister refuses to marry her lover whose nobility is one degree less than hers. He further ridicules such people when he says that the greatness of the Baron and the grandeur of his castle are judged by the fact that the castle had doors, windows and tapestry. This castle is in Westphalia, which is full of poverty. People having wealth consider themselves very superior.

Pangloss is a metaphysician. He is supposed to be qualified in metaphysics, which is a study of existence and knowledge. Theology is a study of God. Cosmology is a study of the universe. “Nigology” is a word invented to indicate that Pangloss’s teaching is nonsense. Candide listens to Pangloss’s teachings very carefully. The words ‘because,’ ‘therefore’ and ‘for’ sound very impressive but actually they are illogically used. Voltaire parodies Pangloss’s style and behavior. Pangloss acts romantic with the maid Paquette. Seeing him Cunégonde also behaves in a romantic manner. Candide reacts reciprocally. Consequently, he is kicked on his back and thrown out of the castle. Cunégonde is slapped by her mother.


How Candide escaped from the Bulgarians and what became of him


After being thrown out from the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, Candide comes to Waldberghofftrarbk-dikdorff. He is very sad and hungry. He is invited to dinner by two men who are recruiting officers to the King of Bulgars. They ask whether he loves tenderly. He admits that he loves tenderly. He admits that he loves Cunégonde tenderly. Then one of them clarifies that they wish to know whether or not he loves the king of Bulgarians. Candide frankly says that he does not, because he has never seen him. They tell him to drink to the health of their charming king. He gladly does so. They suddenly say that now he is a hero. They put irons on his legs and take him to the regiment. He is beaten severely though he protests vehemently. Suddenly, the king appears. He recognizes Candide’s innocence and pardons him. A surgeon heals Candide in three weeks with ointments recommended by Dioscorides. Candide is much better by the time the King of Bulgarians goes to war with the King of Abares.


The Abars here represent the French. The King represents Frederick the Great. Actually, historically speaking Abars were an Asian tribe who conquered Bulgars.

Candide is made to join the regiment without his consent. He does not even know what is being done to him. He is treated in a mechanical manner. In those days it was not unusual for citizens to be forced to join the military service. He is beaten up cruelly. Fortunately, the King is more humane. He pardons him. Actually the reader wonders what crime had he committed. He only admits that he does not love the King because he has never seen him.

Ointments prescribed by Dioscorides cure him. Dioscorides lived in the first century AD. Thus it is indirectly indicated that the French were still resorting to obsolete medicine.

In this chapter, just as in many other chapters of this novel, chance or co-incidence has an important role to play. The King arrives by chance and Candide is saved. A surgeon cures him. Otherwise, he might have died.

Candide is deceived by the soldiers because of his naivety. Yet he is pardoned because of his simplicity and innocence.

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