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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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Humor is a necessary characteristic in this novel. Voltaire has been critical of his contemporary society in a satirical manner. This criticism would be too bitter if he had not interspersed it with humor. It is like covering a bitter pill with a sweet coating, so as to make it easy to swallow.

Voltaire has used a variety of comic elements. The characterization, structure, and style help the author to express his ideas in a humorous manner. The names of characters are often funny and relevant to their behavior and the situations to which they are subjected. They unwittingly express what they would like to hide. Cunégonde is unable to conceal her sensuality. The Baron’s son is unable to hide his homosexual tendencies. Pangloss’s talk shows that he is wrong though he does not admit it.

The comic situations create a zany world. Most of it is farcical. The ‘experimental physics,’ the eunuch’s frustration, the missing buttock of the Pope’s daughter, the relationship between the two pretty girls and the monkeys are vulgar and disgusting. Yet they are funny and, therefore, tolerable to the reader.

Some of the language used is simple mockery. The German names parody the guttural sounds of the language. There is gentle irony typifying the breathless ecstasy of loves or the empty superlatives used by optimists. There are unconvincing co-incidences throughout the novel. The narrow escape of Pangloss and the Baron’s son are ridiculous and unbelievable. There is grim humor when both kings sing a victory hymn ‘Te Deum,’ and when the second earthquake takes place soon after the auto-da-fé.

Many characters and situations are unbelievable but he ideas they represent are real. The reader can judge the novel in a detached manner because of the humor it is interspersed with. Voltaire educates the reader about superstition, hypocrisy, false pride, and sexual immorality leading to prostitution. Humor makes the reading about such serious topics tolerable.


Some characters places and situations in this novel have a symbolic significance. Symbolism provides meaning and effect in a literary work. Symbols lend clarity, vividness, and suggestiveness.

Eldorado symbolizes the ideal, which every person desires. It is a state of happiness and perfection. It is also a state, which should be aimed at. Only then one can get at least some of the joys of Eldorado. Paris is in absolute contrast to Eldorado. It is full of chaos and discontent. Candide becomes sick in Paris. Paris symbolizes a sick French society. So does Candide’s illness. When he goes to England, he is better. Voltaire too was unhappy in France and better in England.

Candide means innocent. He is very innocent and charming. He is a symbol of innocence itself. Paquette suffers from Syphilis and she infects Pangloss. She becomes a prostitute. She is a symbol of disease and the morbid society, which is full of vices. The old lady symbolizes suffering. She has suffered intensely going through the most inhuman treatment. Those who rape her and some other women along with her, symbolize the savagery prevailing at that time.

The Baron is killed with many of his family members. His castle is razed to the ground. This symbolizes the fall of aristocracy which Voltaire wished for. It is an expression of his wish and his hatred for aristocracy since he and many other people suffered at the hands of aristocrats.

Cunégonde is an extremely pretty young girl at the beginning of the novel. She is very ugly by the end of it. She symbolizes the transitoriness of youth and beauty. Her beauty symbolizes the perfection which Candide craves for; and which any man would crave for. Her ugliness symbolizes his shattered dreams and the reality of the imperfection of life.


1. Write a note on the minor themes in Candide.

2. What are the major themes in Candide?

3. Examine Candide as a satirical novel.

4. What is the role of humor in Candide?

5. Discuss Candide as: a Picaresque novel; an autobiographical novel.

6. Bring out the various features of language and style in Candide.

7. Analyze the plot structure of Candide taking into account the climax and outcome.

8. Attempt character-sketches of the following:
a. Candide
b. Cunégonde
c. Pangloss
d. Cacambo
e. Martin
f. The Baron
g. The Baroness
h. The Baron’s son
i. The old lady
j. The Dervish

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Candide by Voltaire: Free BookNotes Summary

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