Define and then compare the philosophical positions represented by Pangloss and Martin in Candide.

Expert Answers info

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In Chapter 19 of Voltaire's satirical work, Candide, Candide and his servant Cacambo encounter misfortunes until they reach Eldorado. However, although they are in a paradise, Candide cannot live without his love, Cunnegonde, and Cacambo has a "restless spirit."  So, they leave, and after a hundred days, they have lost many sheep and riches.  When Candide--who supports the philosophy of Pangloss, that it is the best of all worlds--sees a black slave who has been cruelly tortured, Candide renounces optimism, declaring it "a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell."  After he is robbed by a captain, Candide only dwells on the wickedness of men.  He books passage on a French ship and interviews men for the most unhappy man in the province for whom he will pay passage.  This man is Martin, a poor,old scholar, who has been robbed by his wife, beaten by his son, and abandoned by his daughter.

Unlike Candid, whoe has the hope of seeing Cunegonde, Martin has utterly no hope.  He tells Candide that he is a Manichean, believing in two nearly equal forces of good and evil, although he has seen much more evil.  When Candide says, "Yet there is some good," Martin replies, "That may be...but I do not know it."   Then, after Candide asks him why the world was created, Martin replies, "To drive us mad." And, when Candide asks him if men have always performed evil deeds against one another such as having massacred each other, having lied and cheated, having been ingrates, brigands, and so on, Martin responds with a question himself, "Do you think that sparrow hawks have always eaten pigeons?" 

In Chapter 20 when a ship is sunk by another ship and the wicked Captain Vanderdendur dies, Candide, in his acceptance of the philosophy of Pangloss, declares that the captain's death proves God's goodness:

  "You see,,,that crime is sometimes punished: that rascal of a Dutch captain met the fate he deserved."

But, Martin counters,

"Yes,...but was it necessry hat the passengers on his ship should perish also?  God punished that knave, the devil drowned the others."

In Chapter 23, Candide and Martin continue their debate which points to Martin's being a foil to Pangloss, who theories Candide debates with Martin.  When Candide addresses him,

Sir, no doubt you think that all is for the best in the physical world and in the moral, and nothing could have been otherwise?

Martin replies,

"I, sir,...I think nothing of the sort; I think that everything goes awry with us, that no one knows his rank or his job or what he is doing or what he should do.

However, Martin commits the same error as Pangloss: He is too adamant in his own thinking that he, at times, dismisses real evidence that refutes his philosophy.  For, like the optimism of Pangloss, Martin relies heavily upon his dogmatic belief and mere speculation.  From his satirizing of the characters of Candide and Martin, the reader realizes that absolute pessism is as myopic as absolute optimism. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

iclark11- | Student

hello it must be #1

Unlock This Answer Now