Candide Chapter 1 Summary
by Voltaire

Candide book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Candide Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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 dogs are gathered from his farmyards. His grooms become the hunting whips and the village vicar serves as his personal alms-giver. Everyone laughs at the baron’s stories and calls him “Your Grace.”

The baroness weighs three hundred and fifty pounds, which makes her a person of “considerable importance,” and she performs her household duties with such dignity that she is respected even more. Cunégonde is her seventeen-year-old daughter, and she is “fresh, fat, and piquant.” The baron’s son seems worthy of him in every way. The oracle of the castle is Pangloss, the tutor. Candide does his best to follow his tutor’s teachings.

Pangloss teaches “metaphysico-theologo-cosmo-idiotology.” He is able to prove that there is no effect without a cause and that this is the best of all possible worlds and that the baron’s castle is the finest of all castles and the baroness the finest of all baronesses. Pangloss teaches that it has been proven that things can never be anything but what they are and everything has been made for a purpose; therefore everything has been made for the best purpose. Because noses were created to support glasses, glasses were invented. Legs were created so people could wear pants, thus pants were invented. Stones were made to be quarried and used to build castles; therefore the baron has a magnificent castle. Since pigs were made for eating, people can eat pork all the time. As a consequence, people who claim that all is well are speaking nonsense. What they should say is that “all is best.”

Candide listens to and believes what his tutor says, for he thinks Mademoiselle Cunégonde is quite beautiful (though he has never had the courage to express his feelings). Candide reaches the conclusion that the first-best thing to be is Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronckh; the second-best thing is to be Mademoiselle Cunégonde; the third-best thing is to be able to see her every day; and the...

(The entire section is 695 words.)