Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 796
“What happened to Candide among the Bulgars”
Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline
Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!
Once he was forced to leave the happiest place he has ever known, Candide spends his time wandering, weeping, and looking back at the most beautiful castle which housed the most beautiful baroness. He falls asleep without any dinner between two furrows of a field, and during the night, large flakes of snow fall on him. In the morning, a frozen, penniless, hungry, and exhausted Candide drags himself to the neighboring town of Valdberghoff-Trarbk-Dikdorff and stops outside a tavern door.
Two men dressed in blue take note of him, and one of them remarks to the other that Candide is a young man who is the right height. The two men politely approach Candide and ask him to dine with them. In his own charming and modest way, Candide thanks the gentlemen for their offer but says he has no money with which to buy his meal. One of the men says that a fine young man of his “build and merit” should not have to pay for anything.
He asks Candide if he is five feet six inches tall and Candide affirms, with a bow, that he is. In that case, the men will not only feed him, but they think it is a shame that such a fine young man has no money at all. They tell him men were made to help one another; Candide agrees, saying that is exactly what Pangloss teaches. Now Candide can see that, indeed, everything is for the best.
The men beg Candide to take a few coins from them; he does, and then he starts to write an IOU. The men will have none of it and they all sit down to dinner. One of the men wonders if Candide is a dedicated follower of the King of the Bulgars, but Candide has never heard of this king. That is quite surprising news to the men, and they explain that he is the most charming king and insist that Candide must drink to the king’s health.
Candide is glad to toast their king; after they do, the men announce that he has just enlisted in the king’s army, promising to defend him and be a hero (soldier) of the Bulgars. Surely Candide will bring great honor to himself as a soldier; his fortune will be made and his glory will be assured. Immediately they put shackles on Candide’s feet and he is taken to the regiment. There he is forced to march, present arms, fire, and march double pace, but he is not very good at any of these things and receives thirty strokes of the rod.
The next day Candide is put through the same regimen and he does it just a bit less badly; so he gets only twenty strokes. The next day he only receives ten and is seen as an absolute prodigy by his comrades. Candide cannot understand how he has become a hero. One day he decides to leave, believing that all men (as well as animals) are free to use their legs and walk where they wish. He has not gone very far when four other heroes (soldiers), all six feet tall, catch him, tie him up, and throw him into a dungeon.
At his court-martial, Candide is asked if he prefers being flogged thirty-six times by his entire regiment or having twelve bullets shot into his head all at once. It is pointless for Candide to argue that men have free will and these are not his only two choices; he must choose. Using his “divine gift known as freedom of choice,” Candide chooses to run the gauntlet thirty-six times. He makes it through twice, enduring four thousand strokes of the rod. Every muscle and nerve from his neck to his rear end is exposed.
As he is about to start his third run through the gauntlet, Candide begs the men for mercy and asks if they will show him pity and riddle his brain with bullets. They prepare to grant his wish; Candide is blindfolded and forced to kneel. Just then, the King of the Bulgars walks by and asks what offense Candide has committed. Because the king is a man of great genius, he is able to infer that Candide is a young metaphysician who is “blissfully ignorant of the ways of the world,” so he grants Candide a pardon so grand that it will be spoken of and written about for years to come.
A fine surgeon is able to heal Candide in three weeks with rather old-fashioned ointments. Some of his skin has grown back, and by the time the King of the Bulgars declares war on a neighboring king, Candide is again able to walk.