Discuss the idea of utopia as presented in Candide.
Utopia in the novel is represented in Candide's admonition for us to "cultivate our garden." The garden itself is true utopia for the characters. Although El Dorado is shown to be a utopia as well, it is not an achievable one for Candide and Cacambo, who instead leave to search out more wealth and fame. In the end, they are left with the concept of the personal garden as their true paradise. Thus the theme of the novel is that happiness (through utopia) can only be achieved by concentrating on peace and well-being within one's self, rather than seeking adventures/riches/material goods.
Throughout his life, Candide has struggled with Pangloss' philosophy of optimism, attempting to reconcile what he's been taught with what he sees before him. How to explain war, murder, starvation, rape, poverty, etc., when one's philosophy holds that "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds"? Although El Dorado seems to offer an answer, Candide cannot remain content in the mythical land. Instead, he seeks out Cunegonde, which just leads to further disappointment.
It is only at the end, when Candide meets the old man who is happy on his farm, that he realizes one can only be content with those around them if they are striving to achieve happiness within, rather than without. All of the futile attempts to gain happiness through riches, religion, marriage, etc., have all failed. Instead, Candide combines the teachings of his two influences, Pangloss and Martin, to a belief in the power of a simple life, a life that can bring true inner contentment. That life is one lived cultivating one's own garden.
When Cacambo and Candide reach Eldorado, Candide concludes that this must be utopia, a place where everything "is for the best." However, he is yet unhappy because he misses Cunegonde, and Cacambo has a "restless spirit" and is not satisfied, either. So, they leave because of their personal desires.
The reader concludes from the narrative of Candide and of Cacambo that each man must find his own happiness; it cannot be a universal place or concept. For each person, then, happiness is defined in a different way. This is why Candide says, "Chacun doit cultiver son jardin/Each man must cultivate his own garden."