Can someone please explain the significance of the el'dorado sequence and how it contrasts to the rest of the world in Candide?
Voltaire's Candide is a satire of the philosophy of optimism as argued by Leibniz during the Enlightenment. Candide's mentor, Pangloss, is a caricature of Leibniz; his central tenet is that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." At the conclusion of chapter I when Candide is dismissed from Westphalia, which he had previously believed was "the best of all possible worlds," he sets off on a journey to find this utopia that Pangloss has taught him to so faithfully believe in.
In the early chapters of the novel, Candide falls victim to, witnesses, and hears about all forms of violence and human depravity. As he and his companions eventually leave Europe to sail for "The New World," Candide is confident that the perfect world Pangloss talks about can be found in South America. The closest thing to a utopia in the novel is El Dorado, an isolated city with streets lined with jewels. Candide and his companion stumble upon the city by accident; it is normally unreachable from the outside. While the society sounds peaceful and harmonious, this peace is built on a monotonous sameness: everyone believes the same things and there is no conflict. There is also no interaction with the outside world, so there is no opportunity for enriching cultural exchange. Voltaire seems to suggest that utopia is only possible at great cost. Isolationism is the way to the perfect world, but it comes with a price. Candide, as the naive character he is, only leaves El Dorado because his love, Cunegonde is not there, and he believes he must reunite with her in order to be happy. This episode in El Dorado raises questions about social harmony versus individual fulfillment: must one be sacrificed for the other?
El Dorado, though, is much better than the European countries Candide has visited. By the end of the novel, he and his friends come to a sort of compromise by living a relatively isolated life in which their main object is "tending the garden." The novel suggests that ultimately there is no perfect world, but, if we distract ourselves with work, we can survive in this imperfect one.
Chapter XVII is the chapter in which Candide and the others reach the land of Eldorado; there they find precious jewels everywhere. Everything is beautiful. "Here's a better country than Westphalia!" exclaims Candide. He and his companion find that all the inns are run for free. With a society in which there is no religious discrimination because there is no organized religion, the people live in harmony. In fact, Eldorado is the "country where everything goes well," a utopia; however, utopias like Eldorado exist only by excluding the intrusion of others. But, Candide, finally in a perfect world, rejects it.
Added to this flaw, the jewels awaken greed in the heretofore innocent Candide. Now, he wants to take jewelry so he can find his love Cunnegonde and buy her. So, even when there is no corruption, man creates some. And, ironically, the jewels that are nothing but pebbles to those living in Eldorado are the source of danger to Candide as he becomes a target for swindlers. The satire here is that when things are going well for people, they will create their own misfortune. When Candide is more content with his own blood being shed than with seeing his wealth disappear, Voltaire also satirizes man's greed and irrationalities.