Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Candide: Or, All for the Best is Voltaire’s most widely known work and one of the most widely read pieces of literature written in the French language. Voltaire invented the philosophical tale as a means to convey his own ideas and, at the same time, entertain his readers with satirical wit and ironic innuendo. Candide (the name refers to purity and frankness) is the tale’s main character. He embodies the philosophical idea of optimism that Voltaire intends to oppose.
As the story begins, Candide is forced to leave Wesphalia because he has been caught kissing the baron’s daughter, the beautiful Cunegonde. Candide is driven from the splendid castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, where Doctor Pangloss has been Candide’s tutor and has taught him that all is well in this “best of all possible worlds.” Little time passes before the naïve Candide finds himself conscripted into the Bulgarian army. As a soldier, he witnesses firsthand the terrible atrocities of war. Escaping to Holland, he miraculously encounters Pangloss, who is himself in a pitiful physical state. From the ever-optimistic philosopher, Candide learns that his former home in Germany has been burned to the ground and that all of those inside have been massacred by the advancing Bulgarian army.
Voltaire continues to narrate his story with a cascade of adventures. He nonetheless keeps close to the principal reason for telling his tale: discrediting the metaphysical idea that all that happens on earth has been determined by Providence and therefore must be judged as being for the good of humankind. Pangloss, who has lost part of his nose and one eye to syphilis, continues to insist that all is going well in spite of overwhelming adversity. Candide and Pangloss travel to Lisbon, where they arrive just in time to experience the famous earthquake of 1755. Not only are they caught in Portugal during this natural disaster, but they also become embroiled in the Inquisition. Only by the reappearance...
(The entire section is 815 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Candide, the illegitimate son of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh’s sister, is born in Westphalia. Dr. Pangloss, his tutor and a devout follower of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, teaches him metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology and assures his pupil that this is the best of all possible worlds. Cunegonde, the daughter of the baron, kisses Candide one day behind a screen, whereupon Candide is expelled from the noble baron’s household.
Impressed into the army of the king of Bulgaria, Candide deserts during a battle between the king of Bulgaria and the king of Abares. Later, he is befriended by James the Anabaptist. He also meets his old friend, Dr. Pangloss, now a beggar. James, Pangloss, and Candide start for Lisbon. Their ship is wrecked in a storm off the coast of Portugal. James is drowned, but Candide and Pangloss swim to shore just as an earthquake shakes the city. The rulers of Lisbon, both secular and religious, decide to punish the people whose wickedness brings about the earthquake, and Candide and Pangloss are among the accused. Pangloss is hanged, and Candide is thoroughly whipped.
He is still smarting from his wounds when an old woman accosts Candide and tells him to have courage and to follow her. She leads him to a house where he is fed and clothed. Then Cunegonde appears. Candide is amazed because Pangloss told him that Cunegonde is dead. Cunegonde relates what happened to her since she last saw Candide. She is being kept by a Jew and an Inquisitor, but she holds both men at a distance. Candide kills the Jew and the Inquisitor when they come to see her.
Together with the old woman, Cunegonde and Candide flee to Cadiz, where they are robbed. In despair, they sail for Paraguay, where Candide hopes to enlist in the Spanish army then fighting the rebellious Jesuits. During the voyage, the old woman tells her story. They learn that she is the daughter of Pope Urban X and...
(The entire section is 782 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
“How Candide was raised in a fine castle, and how he was chased from it”
Westphalia is the home of Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronckh. In the baron’s castle lives a young boy who has the sweetest disposition, and his face mirrors the beauty of his soul. The boy has a simple mind and his judgment is rather straightforward. This is why he was named Candide. The oldest castle servants suspect that Candide is the son of the baron’s sister and a man who was not noble enough for her to marry.
The baron is one of the most powerful lords in all of Westphalia because his castle has windows and a door and his great hall has one tapestry hanging in it. When the need to hunt arises, all the baron’s...
(The entire section is 695 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
“What happened to Candide among the Bulgars”
Once he was forced to leave the happiest place he has ever known, Candide spends his time wandering, weeping, and looking back at the most beautiful castle which housed the most beautiful baroness. He falls asleep without any dinner between two furrows of a field, and during the night, large flakes of snow fall on him. In the morning, a frozen, penniless, hungry, and exhausted Candide drags himself to the neighboring town of Valdberghoff-Trarbk-Dikdorff and stops outside a tavern door.
Two men dressed in blue take note of him, and one of them remarks to the other that Candide is a young man who is the right height. The two men politely...
(The entire section is 796 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
“How Candide escaped from among the Bulgars, and what became of him”
The two armies are stunning in every way, and the noise of the trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums, and cannons create a magnificent harmony. First, the cannons kill six thousand men on each side; then musket shots kill nine or ten thousand “rogues infecting its surface.” The bayonets dispose of several thousand more, for a total of nearly thirty thousand men in this best of all possible worlds. A trembling Candide does what any philosopher would do—he hides as best as he can as the “heroic butchery” goes on around him.
At the end of the day, while the two kings have a hymn sung over the dead, Candide decides to...
(The entire section is 698 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
“How Candide met his old philosophy tutor Doctor Pangloss and what followed”
Candide is moved more by compassion than horror at the sight of this repulsive beggar and gives him the coins he was gifted. The disgusting creature stares at Candide before erupting into tears and flinging himself on the young man’s neck. When Candide draws back, the beggar asks if Candide does not recognize him, his own tutor Pangloss.
Candide cannot believe this repugnant man is really Pangloss and asks what terrible thing has happened to cause him to be in this condition. He asks why Pangloss is no longer in the finest of all castles and what has become of Cunégonde, a true “masterpiece of nature.”...
(The entire section is 804 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
“Storm, shipwreck, earthquake, and what became of Doctor Pangloss, Candide, and Jacques the Anabaptist”
Half of the passengers are weakened and dying from the agonies of a ship rolling mercilessly at sea and are not even able to worry about the danger they are in; the other half wail and pray. The ship is broken and tattered. Some try to help, but no one is in charge or knows what to do. Jacques is on deck trying to steer the ship and is knocked to the ground by a punch from a frenzied sailor. But the power of the blow jolts the sailor enough that he falls overboard and is caught and suspended by a broken piece of the mast. Jacques recovers and rescues the man but falls into the sea while doing so,...
(The entire section is 697 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
“How an auto-de-fé was held in order to hinder future earthquakes, and how Candide’s buttocks were flogged”
The earthquakes destroyed three fourths of Lisbon, and the wise men of the city determine that the only effective way to prevent total ruin is to give the people an auto-de-fé. The University of Coimbra, after studying the situation, concludes that burning a few people over a slow fire in a public ceremony is exactly what is needed to infallibly prevent more quaking of the earth.
To that end, authorities seize a Biscayan prisoner who had been convicted of marrying his godchild’s mother and two Portuguese men being held because they refused to eat bacon and thus were probably...
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
“How an old woman took care of Candide, and how he found again what he loved”
The old woman had told Candide to take courage, but he does not. He does, however, follow the woman to a small cottage. She gives him a jar of ointment to put on his wounds and brings him something to eat and drink before leading him to a small, clean bed. Next to the bed is a full set of clothing. The old woman tells Candide to eat, drink, and sleep; and then she prays a blessing over him and says she will return tomorrow. He is still in shock at what has happened to him, but is moved by the woman’s charity toward a stranger and tries to kiss her hand. She tells him it is not her hand he ought to kiss and...
(The entire section is 603 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Cunégonde was asleep in her bed “when it pleased Heaven” to send the Bulgars to the castle of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh. The soldiers chopped the baron and baroness into pieces. A six-foot-tall Bulgar noticed that Cunégonde had lost consciousness at the sight of her parents’ murders and began to rape her. She suddenly regained consciousness and began to scream, bite, scratch, and struggle. In fact, she wished she could tear out the giant Bulgar’s eyes; she was unaware that everything that was happening in this castle was the “customary way of doing things.” The soldier stabbed her in the left side, and she still bears the mark. The naïve Candide says he hopes he will...
(The entire section is 811 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
“What became of Cunégonde, Candide, the Grand Inquisitor, and a Jew”
Don Issacar is irate when he sees that Cunégonde is not alone when he arrives. He begins yelling at her, telling her that she is a harlot. Sharing her with an inquisitor is demeaning enough, and now he must also share her with “this rogue.” As he speaks, Issacar draws the long sword he always carries with him and throws himself at Candide, believing the younger man is unarmed. The old woman, however, had given Candide a fine sword along with his new clothes. Though he has a sweet disposition, Candide draws his sword and, in an instant, Issacar is lying on the tiles at Cunégonde’s feet.
The lady is distraught,...
(The entire section is 596 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
“The distress in which Candide, Cunégonde, and the old woman arrive at Cádiz, and their embarkation”
Cunégonde is weeping, wondering who could have stolen her diamonds and money. Now they have nothing to live on, and she has no idea where she can find inquisitors or Jews who will give her more. The old woman suspects it was the Franciscan Father who was staying at the same inn as they did yesterday. She does not want to make a rash judgment against a man of God, but the holy man came into their room twice and left the inn long before they did.
Candide is sad, for Pangloss often proved that the material things of this world belong equally to all men; thus, every man has the same right...
(The entire section is 672 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
“The old woman’s story”
The old woman was not always in the physical condition she is in now, and she was not always a servant. She is the daughter of Pope Urban X and the Princess of Palestrina and, until she was fourteen, she was raised in a palace far finer than the stable of any Baron’s castle in Germany. Just one of her gowns was worth all the splendors of Westphalia. Her beauty, grace, and talents grew, and she was surrounded by “pleasures, deference, and expectations.” Her body grew beautiful in every way; the servants who dressed her were envious and every man wanted her.
She was betrothed to a prince as handsome as she was beautiful; he was charming, witty, and full of...
(The entire section is 732 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
“The continuation of the old woman’s misfortunes”
The old woman was surprised to hear her own language being spoken and even more surprised to hear the words the man spoke. She told him there are worse things than what he complained of and explained briefly the trials she had suffered before fainting. The man carried her to a nearby house where he cared for her and praised her beauty, again ruing his inability to function as a true man.
He explained that he was born in Naples where several thousand boys are castrated each year. Some die, some develop voices more beautiful than a woman’s, and some become politicians. This man became a great singer in the chapel of Her Highness the...
(The entire section is 803 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
“How Candide was forced to part with the fair Cunégonde and the old woman”
After hearing the old woman’s story, Cunégonde treats her with the deference due to a woman of her rank. She follows the old woman’s advice and asks every passenger traveling with them to tell them their stories. The old woman was right; everyone does have a story of woe to tell. Candide wishes Pangloss were here to tell them wonderful things about the physical and moral evil which exists on land and sea; if he were, Candide would have the courage to make some “respectful objections” to those who cannot see the good in their woes.
The ship continues as each passenger tells his tale. When they land in...
(The entire section is 663 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
“How Candide and Cacambo were received by the Jesuits of Paraguay”
When Candide left Cadiz, he brought a valet with him. His name is Cacambo and he is of mixed heritage. Cacambo loves his master because he knows Candide is a truly good man. He saddles the Andalusian horses as quickly as he can and says they should flee without looking back. Candide is weeping bitterly, heartbroken that he was about to marry Cunégonde and now he will have to leave her. When he wonders what will become of her, the practical valet says Cunégonde will become whatever she can, as women “always find a way.”
Cunégonde asks where his valet is taking him, and Cacambo says they should go fight with...
(The entire section is 690 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
“How Candide killed the brother of his beloved Cunégonde”
The commandant will never forget the day the Bulgars raided his father’s castle and he saw his parents killed and his sister raped. When the Bulgars finally left the castle, Cunégonde was gone. The commandant was in a cart with other butchered bodies from the castle, including his parents’, and taken away to be buried in a Jesuit chapel. One of the Jesuits threw some holy water on the bodies; it was salty and it made the commandant’s eyes twitch. The Jesuit noticed the movement and rescued the boy. Within three weeks, the commandant was healed and had no trace of injury.
He was always a handsome boy and grew even more...
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
“What happened to the two travelers with two girls, two monkeys, and the savages called the Orejones”
Candide and his valet have crossed the border, and no one at the camp has yet discovered the death of the Jesuit commandant. The quick-thinking Cacambo filled his saddlebags with food before they rode deep into an unknown country. Finally they discover a great stretch of “grassland crisscrossed with streams,” and the two travelers stop to let their horses graze. Cacambo urges his master to eat, but Candide is too distraught; he has killed Cunégonde's brother and is thus condemned never to see the woman he loves again. If he eats, he will only prolong his life and add to his miserable days....
(The entire section is 799 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
“The arrival of Candide and his valet in the land of El Dorado, and what they saw there”
As Candide and Cacambo arrive at the Orejones’ border, the valet tells his master they should return to Europe as quickly as possible. Candide says that the Bulgars and Avars are still butchering everyone in Germany; if he returns to Portugal, he will be burned at the stake; and if he stays here he is always at risk of being roasted on a spit. Moreover, he is loathe to leave the part of the world where Cunégonde is. Cacambo suggests they go to Cayenne; there they can find Frenchmen who travel the world and who would perhaps help the travelers. Perhaps God will take pity on them, as well.
(The entire section is 802 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
“What they saw in the land of El Dorado”
The innkeeper tells Cacambo that he is a happily ignorant man, but there is a wise man in the village who is the most learned and eloquent man in the kingdom. The innkeeper takes them to an old man in a sumptuous but simple room full of fine metals and jewels. The man is one hundred and seventy-two years old, and his deceased father was equerry (honored attendant) to the king.
This kingdom is the “old fatherland to the Incas” who unwisely chose to leave so they could subjugate another part of the world and were ultimately destroyed by the Spaniards. The princes and their families who remained were much wiser and decreed, with the people’s...
(The entire section is 807 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
“What happened to them in Surinam, and how Candide met Martin”
Candide and Cacambo have a pleasant first day of traveling; on the second day, two sheep are swallowed by a swamp, and several days later two more die of exhaustion. At the end of a hundred days of travel, they only have two sheep. Candide tells Cacambo that this is how fleeting the riches of the world are; the only things that endure are virtue and happiness at seeing Cunégonde again.
Ahead of them is Surinam, which belongs to the Dutch. As they approach town, they see a Negro man lying on the ground wearing nothing but blue underpants; his left leg and his right hand are missing. He is waiting for his master, Monsieur...
(The entire section is 807 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
“What happened to Candide and Martin at sea”
Candide and Martin, the old scholar, set sail for Bordeaux. Both men have lived through and seen much suffering, so even if their ship were traveling around the world they would not run out of conversation about the realities of physical and moral evil.
Candide is better off than Martin in one respect, for he has the hope of seeing his beloved Cunégonde again while Martin has nothing for which to hope. Though Candide does not have the riches he once had, he still has some gold and diamonds. So, though the tragedies which have befallen him still cause him pain, when he speaks about Cunégonde and remembers what he has in his pockets, Candide...
(The entire section is 720 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
“Candide and Martin continue reasoning as they approach the coast of France”
At last the coast of France is in sight, and Candide asks Martin if he has ever been to France. Martin has traveled through several provinces of the country and he has seen people there who are mad, overly cunning, gentle, foolish, and witty. In every province, though, the people’s primary occupation is love, the second is slander, and the third is talking nonsense. Even Paris has all those types of people. It is a city of chaos where everyone seeks pleasure but rarely finds it, or at least it seems so to Martin.
When he visited Paris, he did not stay long. First, pickpockets robbed him of everything he had...
(The entire section is 490 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
“What happened to Candide and Martin in France”
Candide sells a few of his El Dorado stones and buys a carriage for two. Though he is upset at having to leave his red sheep behind, Candide donates the animal to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which offers a prize to whomever can determine why the sheep is red. (The eventual winner devised a ridiculous formula by which all sheep should be red and should die of sheep pox.)
Everyone Candide and Martin meet is headed to Paris; their enthusiasm convinces Candide to stop and see the city, and they change course. They enter the city through a nasty little village and as soon as Candide is settled at the inn he begins to feel sick. Since he...
(The entire section is 807 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
“Candide and Martin head for the coast of England. What they see there”
Candide and Martin are on a Dutch ship on their way to England, and Candide bemoans the evils of this world and longs for his beloved Cunégonde. He asks Martin if he knows whether the people of England are as mad as they are in France. Martin tells him the English people suffer from a different kind of madness.
England is a country which fights a war over “a few acres of snow near Canada,” and they are spending more money on this war than what all of Canada is worth. Though he cannot explain their behavior, Martin warns Candide that he is certain to discover what the rest of the world already knows: the English...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
“About Paquette and Brother Giroflee”
Candide arrives in Venice and begins searching for Cacambo. Every day he sends messengers to the ships, but there is no word of his valet or of Cunégonde. He does not understand how he could have been gone so long, through so many misadventures followed by a month-long stay in Venice, and still his beloved has not arrived. Candide assumes she is dead, and he wishes he could die, as well. Candide says he should have stayed in El Dorado and tells Martin he was right: everything is “illusion and disaster.”
Eventually Candide sinks into a deep melancholy, and nothing can draw him out of it. Martin scolds him for being naïve enough to assume his...
(The entire section is 809 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
“The visit to Senator Pococurante, a Venetian nobleman”
Martin and Candide visit the sixty-year-old nobleman who lives in a glorious palazzo; he greets them politely but without any enthusiasm, which is disconcerting to Candide but not displeasing to Martin. Two beautiful girls serve them delicious cocoa, and the senator tells his guests that he sometimes lets the girls share his bed because he is bored with the women in town; but even these girls are beginning to bore him.
After lunch, the men walk through a long gallery of beautiful paintings; Candide is surprised at the beauty of the works and asks who painted them. Though they were painted by Raphael and are loved by everyone, the...
(The entire section is 688 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
“Of a dinner that Candide and Martin had with six strangers, and who they were”
One evening, Candide and Martin sit down to a meal with strangers staying at their inn. Suddenly a man with soot-colored skin approaches Candide from behind and grabs his arms, telling him to be ready to “leave with them,” without fail. Candide turns around and is ecstatic to see Cacambo. He embraces his old friend and asks to take him to Cunégonde immediately. Cacambo tells him Cunégonde is not here; she is in Constantinople.
That does not dampen Candide’s joy, and he asks Cacambo to take him to his beloved immediately. His former valet says they can leave after dinner but he cannot say anything...
(The entire section is 784 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
“Candide’s voyage to Constantinople”
Candide’s faithful valet has arranged for Candide and Martin to board the ship which is taking Sultan Ahmed back to Constantinople. The men prostrated themselves before “His miserable Highness” before embarking. On the way, Candide notes that he and Martin dined with six dethroned kings, and he was even able to give alms to one of them. He figures that there are many more noblemen who are even more unfortunate than he, for he has only lost a hundred sheep and now he is going to be reunited with his beloved Cunégonde. He tells Martin that, once again, Pangloss is right: all is for the best.
Martin is not particularly impressed with any of...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
“What happened to Candide, Cunégonde, Pangloss, Martin, et cetera”
Again Candide apologizes to the Jesuit baron for driving his sword through his belly; the baron forgives him, saying perhaps he, too, had been rash. He arrived in the galley ship after an interesting series of events.
After he had been stabbed, one of his Jesuit brothers, an apothecary, healed his wound. He was then attacked by a Spanish contingency and abducted by them before being imprisoned in Buenos Aires after Cunégonde had left the city. The young baron asked to be returned to the Father General in Rome where he served as the almoner to the French Ambassador in Constantinople.
He had only been in this...
(The entire section is 743 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
“How Candide found Cunégonde and the old woman”
On their trip to Propontis, Candide and his companions (Martin, Cacambo, Pangloss, and the baron) philosophize about causes and effects, physical and moral evil, freedom and necessity, and the random but necessary events of this universe. They finally arrive at the home of the Prince of Transylvania on the shore of Propontis. The first two things they see are the very things they came for: Cunégonde and the old woman. They are hanging towels out on the line to dry.
The baron turns pale at the sight. Candide gazes upon his once-beautiful beloved who is now brown and withered. She has bloodshot eyes, shrunken breasts, wrinkled cheeks, and...
(The entire section is 451 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
In the recesses of his heart, Candide no longer wants to marry Cunégonde, but the baron is so insulting and Cunégonde is so insistent that Candide is determined to follow through on his promise. He consults his advisors (Pangloss, Martin, and Cacambo) regarding this decision.
Pangloss gives a dissertation in which he proves that the young baron has no rights at all over his sister and that Cunégonde therefore has every right to marry Candide if she wishes it. Martin’s advice is to throw the baron promptly into the sea. Cacambo suggests that the baron be returned to the galleys and then sent back to the Father General in Rome. The others like this idea very much, and...
(The entire section is 789 words.)