Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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The name Candide means innocent. Just like his name and his characteristics, Candide is very innocent. He is simple and he trusts everyone. He is assumed to be the son of the Baronís sister. He loves Cunégonde but is not bold enough to confess. He is very gentle. He listens to Panglossís talk and initially believes what he says although he does not really understand his high flown talk.

Candide is very much attracted to Cunégonde who is very beautiful. From the beginning of the novel to the end, he yearns for her and his only aim is to achieve her. He is seen in a romantic position with her. This makes the Baron very angry and he throws him out of the castle.

From the time he is made to leave the castle till the end of the novel, he goes through various adventures. He gradually matures from an innocent boy to an experienced and practical man.

When he is offered a choice between execution and flogging, he learns that one does not always have a choice between good and bad. One has to sometimes choose between bad and worse. He is terrorized by war and earthquakes. He often starts doubting Panglossís theory. His faith is restored from time to time when he comes across goodness in an otherwise evil society. The kindness of Jacques and the old lady gives him hope. His faith is shaken by events like auto-da-fé and other evils, which he encounters. There is a limit to the suffering Candide can endure. He kills Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor to protect himself. He runs a sword through the Baronís son and thinks that the latter is dead, but the Baronís son survives.

He goes to America hoping that he will find a better world. But he soon realizes that it is no better than Europe. In Paris he gets sick. In England his health is better. To a certain extent he represents Voltaire himself. Voltaire was disgusted in France and was much better off in England. Candide is ill treated by the nobleman Rohan-Chabot. Candide is imprisoned just as Voltaire was imprisoned in the Bastille for no fault of his. It is presumed that Candide maybe the illegitimate son on the baronís sister. It is also presumed that Voltaire may have been the illegitimate son of Rochebrune. Through a series of adventures - tragic, comic, and eerie, he becomes an experienced mature person. There is sin and sufferings everywhere except in Eldorado. Eldorado is a haven of peace and joy. The king is free from vanity and welcomes him as his equals. Yet he does not stay long on this earthly paradise. He goes in search of Cunégonde. Such is the intensity of love he has for her. Whenever he is unable to find her he regresses to bleak pessimism. At such times he feels that Martin is right in saying that there is nothing but illusion.

When he is rushing to Cunégonde, he reverts to optimism feeling that he has hardly lost anything as he is rushing back to her arms. He feels happy that his position is better than that of the dethroned kings.

Candide often wonders whether Panglossís philosophy is right. He questions him whether he thought all was for the best even when he was mercilessly beaten, hanged and dissected. Finally, he politely but firmly rejects Panglossís philosophy and also Martinís extreme pessimism. The Dervish who tells him not to meddle in philosophical questions impresses him. According to him, the three great evils (boredom vice and need) can only be conquered through work.

At the end of the novel, he is bored and disillusioned with Cunégondeís ugliness and her shrewish behavior. Yet he realizes that that though life cannot be ideal, it can at least be made tolerable by being practical, hardworking and honest. One cannot have the Garden of Eden, but one can at least cultivate our own garden and make ourselves reasonably happy. Through Candide and the character of Candide, Voltaire wishes to give this important message to his readers.


Cunégonde is the Baronís daughter. She is a young girl of seventeen. She is extremely beautiful and buxom. She has rosy cheeks. A Tutor, Dr. Pangloss, who is supposed to be an expert on various subjects, teaches her. One day she sees Dr. Pangloss doing some physical experiments with the chambermaid Paquette. She quickly decides to go through such experiments and experience their Ďcauses and effects.í Thus behind the screen she drops a handkerchief hoping that Candide will pick up. The result is that their knees tremble, their hands wander. The Baron sees them. He kicks Candide on his back and throws him out of his castle. Cunégonde faints. When she regains consciousness she is slapped by her mother, the Baroness.

After the first chapter, the reader is told about the tremendous suffering she goes through. She loves Candide and desperately wants to marry him. They meet from time to time but they come across some obstacle or the other, and she is unable to marry him. They are parted from each other again and again till she finally meets him at the end of the novel.

She loses her parents and the castle at Westphalia. She is raped as much as possible. Then various people use her. She is taken by a Bulgar captain and sold to a Jewish Banker, Don Issachar. Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor share her. While she goes through a lot of suffering, she realizes that Pangloss has cheated her by telling her that all is for the best. The reader feels sympathetic towards her.

The sensuality in her nature cannot be denied. Her conversation reveals it when she tells Candide that she appreciates his white skin, which is even whiter than the Bulgar captainís skin is. When she is robbed of her jewels she is amusingly self-centered and materialistic. She regrets that she will not find another Don Issachar or the Inquisitor to replace them.

When the governor Don Fernando proposes marriage to her, she asks for a quarter of an hour to think. Then she agrees to marry him when the old lady advises her to do so. Some readers feel that she does so because she does not care for Candide. However, it is possible that she is more concerned about his safety than his physical presence with her. If he had stayed on, he would have been executed for killing Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor. She thus runs to him and advises him to flee immediately. Thus, this shows her love and concern for him. Later the governor sells her off.

Candide finally meets Cunégonde at the house of the Prince of Transylvania while she and the old lady are hanging out the washing. Cunégonde has now become ugly, bloodshot, and wrinkled. She is so ugly that her brother grows pale with shock and sorrow. Candide is horrified. However, he politely recovers and buys freedom for Cunégonde and the old lady. Cunégonde does not realize that she has become so ugly. She insists that Candide should marry her. Her brother opposes the marriage. Her ugliness symbolizes the end of Candideís empty dreams. It shatters his unrealistic hope for perfection. Her beauty had symbolized Candideís ideal for happiness throughout the novel. However, in the end she proves a useful member of the small society in which she lives on Candideís farm. She becomes a good pastry cook and finds pleasure and satisfaction in work.

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