Chapter 21 Summary
“Candide and Martin continue reasoning as they approach the coast of France”
At last the coast of France is in sight, and Candide asks Martin if he has ever been to France. Martin has traveled through several provinces of the country and he has seen people there who are mad, overly cunning, gentle, foolish, and witty. In every province, though, the people’s primary occupation is love, the second is slander, and the third is talking nonsense. Even Paris has all those types of people. It is a city of chaos where everyone seeks pleasure but rarely finds it, or at least it seems so to Martin.
When he visited Paris, he did not stay long. First, pickpockets robbed him of everything he had with him. Then he was mistaken for a thief and spent a week in jail. He had to work as a proofreader to earn enough money to walk back to Holland. In that job, he saw writers, plotters, and "convulsioners" (those who gathered at the tomb of a dead divine and convulsed, ate dirt from the grave site, and performed beatings and crucifixions). People claim there are some very refined people in Paris; Martin would like to believe it.
Candide has no interest in spending any time in France. Now that he has lived in El Dorado, he no longer cares for anything on this earth but Cunégonde. He plans to go straight to Venice and wait for her to come to him. To do that, he must cross France and go to Italy; he asks Martin if he would like to accompany him on this journey. Martin gladly accepts the offer, saying that Venice is not a good place for anyone but Venetian nobles and rich visitors. Since Candide is rich, Martin will happily follow him.
Candide asks if Martin believes the world was originally a giant sea. Martin does not believe any of the fantasies people have been trying to promote for many years but that the world was created just to infuriate those who live in it. He is not astonished at the kind of love the two girls had for their monkeys (Candide had told him the story) nor the fact that men are butchering one another. Candide wonders if Martin believes that men have always been
liars, rogues, traitors, ingrates, brigands, weaklings, inconstant, cowards, enviers, gluttons, drunkards, misers, self-seekers, bloodthirsty, slanderers, debauchers, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools.
In return, Martin asks Candide if he believes hawks have always eaten pigeons when they can find them.
Candide says he does believe that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they can find them. Martin explains that is because hawks have always had the same character, so it is foolish to expect that men can change their characters. Candide says there is one major difference: men have free will. The men’s conversation continues with this kind of reasoning until they arrive at Bordeaux.