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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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How Candide escaped from the Bulgarians and what became of him


The two armies present a glorious spectacle. A terrible atmosphere is created by the music and gunfire. The guns and bayonets are the cause of death of some thirty thousand rogues. Candide trembles in terror. Eventually both the kings and their armies sing a ‘Te Deum’. Candide visits a ruined village on either side. He wishes to see the ‘causes’ and ‘effects.’ Everywhere he sees the shocking massacre of the young and old, male and female as a result of the soldiers’ lust and bloodthirstiness.

Candide seeks Christian charity in Holland hoping that he will be treated well. He is warned against begging. A preacher asks him whether he considers Pope to be anti-Christ. Candide honestly replies that he has no idea. All he wants is food. He is treated very shabbily. The kind Anabaptist, James Jacques gives him shelter. He also offers him a job with a Dutch manufacturer of Persian materials. Candide is reassured. His faith in Pangloss’s optimism is regained. Next day he meets a beggar who is mutilated and diseased.


Warfare was a very formal affair in those days. ‘Te deum’ is the Christian hymn of thanksgiving. Here it is sung by both the parties. It is obvious that both the parties could not have won the battle. Voltaire depicts this as a kind of ritualistic obsession. Voltaire also feels that the atrocities of war cannot be prevented in spite of international laws.

Candide is treated shabbily for saying that he has no ideas on the subject (whether Pope is anti-Christ). This shows the religious fanaticism in Voltaire’s contemporary society. The Christians are divided into two sects - the Catholics and the Protestants. The Protestants are the direct followers of the teachings of Christ, whereas the Catholics have Pope as the head of their church. He is their religious leader although the Catholics also believe in Christ.

Anabaptist James Jacques shelters Candide and does whatever he can to help him. His compassionate attitude is in dire contrast to the bloodthirstiness of the soldiers. He can be compared with the Good Samaritan in Christ’s parable. Anabaptists are Christians who baptize only adults, as children cannot understand their teachings. Voltaire admires their teachings and practicality. Having been helped by Jacques, Candide gets more convinced about Pangloss’s teachings wherein he stated that everything happens for the best. Just then he sees a haggard and mutilated beggar. In the next chapter, one comes to know that the beggar is Pangloss himself.


How Candide met his old master in Philosophy, Dr. Pangloss, and what happened


Candide is moved more by compassion than by horror. He gives the beggar money, which Jacques has given him. He is shocked when he realizes that the beggar is Dr. Pangloss. He comes to know from him that Cunégonde has been raped. The castle and her family have been destroyed. Pangloss explains the ‘sufficient reason’ for his own condition. He has contracted venereal disease from Paquette, the chambermaid. He then traces the disease to its source. One of the soldiers with Columbus picked it up in America. Columbus too picked up the infection. Paquette received the infection from a learned monk. In her arms, Pangloss enjoyed bliss but he contracted the disease.

Jacques pays for his treatment and they sail to Lisbon. Pangloss argues that personal misfortune contributes to general good. Jacques does not agree. His opinion is that men are born pure but grow corrupt. While they are talking a violent storm takes place.


Pangloss suffers from Syphilis, which is a venereal disease. It is caused by sexual intercourse with an infected partner. It harms the victim and his descendants too. Pangloss has got this disease from the Baron’s maid. In tracing the very source of Syphilis and the numerous people infected by it, Voltaire is condemning the lack of sexual morality. Voltaire is concerned with better health care. In his English letters he advises the French to get inoculated against smallpox just as the English had done.

In spite of suffering from a terrible disease like Syphilis, Pangloss does not give up his optimistic theories. He argues that personal sufferings result in general good.

Jacques again acts as a Good Samaritan. He pays for Pangloss’s treatment and they sail for Lisbon. Jacques’ concern for his fellowmen is really touching in a society where most people have no value for human beings and human life.

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