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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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CANDIDE: PLOT ANALYSIS / BOOK NOTES

CHAPTER 21

Candide and Martin approach the coast of France and argue

Summary

As Candide and Martin approach the coast of France, Martin tells Candide that the main occupation of the inhabitants is love, scandal, and talking nonsense. Martin has seen Paris. There everybody hunts for pleasure and rarely anyone finds it. He was robbed there. He was considered a thief and imprisoned for a week. After that he became a printer’s reader and earned enough to return to Holland on foot.

Having seen Eldorado, Candide does not desire to see anything more. He only wants to see Cunégonde. Candide and Martin go to Italy via France. Martin informs Candide that Venice is a place only for the Venetian nobles; but foreigners are received well if they have a lot of money. Martin has no money. Candide has plenty. Martin says that he will follow him. Martin feels that the earth is created to make man mad. Candide lists all the vices of mankind and wonders whether men have always massacred each other. Martin is sure they have. Candide then talks of men having ‘free will.’ While they are discussing they reach Bordeaux.

Notes

Paris is in total contrast with Eldorado. Candide asks if men have always done evil, massacred each other. This implies that he now accepts Martin’s picture of mankind. He is gradually moving away from Pangloss’s optimistic theory. Yet he does not wish to give up optimism totally. This is seen by the fact that he still talks of ‘free will.’

In Paris, the mob is chaotic. There are intriguers and religious fanatics. People’s only entertainment is love, scandal, and talking nonsense. This shows the useless life people lead. They waste their time and energy on unproductive entertainment. Voltaire has given this image to attack the worthlessness of his contemporary society. A worst image of the French society is given when Martin tells Candide that he was robbed and imprisoned as if he was a thief. Martin who has already suffered in so many other ways because of the cruelty and brutality of the society is punished with imprisonment for no fault of his.


There is massacre. People kill human beings like hawks killing pigeons. This shows the insensitivity and savage behavior, which prevailed, in Voltaire’s contemporary society.


CHAPTER 22

What happened to Candide and Martin in France

Summary

After selling his Eldorado pebbles and reluctantly leaving his llamas in the Bordeaux academy of science, Candide proceeds to Paris. A priest from Perigord takes Martin and Candide to the theatre. Candide is moved by the play. A critic condemns it because the author cannot speak Arabic and he does not believe in Descartes theory of innate ideas. Candide learns that the actresses are thrown in the public sewer after they die. He is shocked. He comes to know that the critic hates literary success just as eunuchs hate those who enjoy. Therefore, he is so critical.

Candide loses a fortune while gambling. He discusses with ‘a man of good taste’ who considers life to be an eternal war. Martin feels very pessimistic. Janesenists quarrel with Molinists. People from different walks of life quarrel with each other. The Marchioness uses her feminine charm to obtain two diamonds from Candide. Candide regrets that he has been unfaithful to his beloved Cunégonde. Next day Candide receives a letter informing him that Cunégonde is sick in Paris. He rushes to her. He is full of emotion. He reaches the dark room where Cunégonde is. They cannot see each other. The maidservant extends her hand and takes the money, which Candide gives. Candide leaves the diamonds and gold there.

Meanwhile, a treacherous priest summons the police. Candide is arrested as foreigners are treated with suspicion after an attempt has been made to kill Louis XIV. He bribes the police. They escape and take a ship to Portsmouth. Candide feels he has been saved from hell.

Notes

The two largest scenes in the novel are Eldorado and Paris. They balance each other artistically providing a dire contrast to each other. One is an earthly paradise and the other is a hell on earth. The worthless and insensitive kind of living in Paris disproves Pangloss’s theories. Voltaire particularly attacks the people he hated. He satirizes his rival Maupertuis who lived in Berlin and tried to express his ideas in mathematical formulae.

The actresses are thrown in the public sewer when the die. They are excommunicated from the church during their lifetime. This shows orthodoxy.

In this chapter there is a reference to Descartes. René Descantes has expressed his innate ideas in his work Discourse on Method (1637). In this he wrote about the dualism of mind and body.

Cheating at cards was very common in those days. People played for very high stakes. Voltaire and his beloved Madam du Chatelet had to flee when he claimed that she had been cheated at the queen’s table.

There is a reference to Jenisists and Molinists who were people belonging to two different religious sects. Molinists were followers of the ideas of free will as propounded by Louis Molina, a Spanish Jesuit. There was a Papal decree against the Jensenists. Thus Catholics were against them. Voltaire hates and fears religious fanatics who even resort to murder because of their religious intolerance.

Other people from different walks of life also quarrel. This shows the chaos and the mental unrest prevailing among the people.


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