Chapter 1 Summary

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“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 fourth-best thing is to be taught by Doctor Pangloss, the greatest philosopher in the entire province, and thus the world.

One day Cunégonde is walking in the small wood near the castle called “the park” when she sees Pangloss in the underbrush giving a personal lesson in experimental physics to [having sex with] her mother’s pretty, obedient chambermaid. Since Cunégonde has a great aptitude for science, she watches this experiment avidly and breathlessly. After gaining a clear understanding of Pangloss’s teachings, Cunégonde returns to the castle in a high state of excitement and with a great desire to become educated. She believes Candide might be able to help her learn. On her way inside she meets him and blushes; Candide also blushes, and both speak without really saying anything.

The next day after dinner, Cunégonde and Candide find one another behind a screen. She drops her handkerchief; he picks it up. She happens to take his hand; he happens to take hers and kiss it with great energy and grace. Lips kiss, eyes flash, knees tremble, and hands roam. The baron walks past the screen and observes this cause and effect; he then kicks Candide in the rear end all the way out of the castle. Cunégonde faints and the moment she revives, the baroness slaps her. Suddenly everything is in disarray in this most perfect of all castles. 

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Chapter 2 Summary