Candide Chapter 4 Summary
by Voltaire

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Chapter 4 Summary

“How Candide met his old philosophy tutor Doctor Pangloss and what followed”

Candide is moved more by compassion than horror at the sight of this repulsive beggar and gives him the coins he was gifted. The disgusting creature stares at Candide before erupting into tears and flinging himself on the young man’s neck. When Candide draws back, the beggar asks if Candide does not recognize him, his own tutor Pangloss.

Candide cannot believe this repugnant man is really Pangloss and asks what terrible thing has happened to cause him to be in this condition. He asks why Pangloss is no longer in the finest of all castles and what has become of Cunégonde, a true “masterpiece of nature.” Pangloss does not even have the strength to speak, so Candide takes him to Jacques’ barn and gives him a bit of bread. Once he has recovered, Pangloss finally answers: Cunégonde is dead.

At the word, Candide faints and Pangloss eventually revives him. When Candide opens his eyes, he asks where the best of all possible worlds has gone and what illness killed his lovely Cunégonde—or perhaps she died of grief after Candide was forced to leave the castle. Neither, says Pangloss.

Cunégonde was disemboweled by Bulgar soldiers after she was “raped as much as one can be.” The baron tried to defend her, but the soldiers bashed his head in and hacked the baroness to pieces. Their son, the young baron, met the same fate as his sister. Not one stone of the castle is left standing; the barn, animals, and trees on the property are gone, as well. They were “well avenged,” however, since the Bulgars did exactly the same thing to a neighboring barony which belonged to a Bulgar nobleman.

Candide faints again. Once he recovers, Candide asks Pangloss how he came to be in this pitiful condition. Pangloss tells him it was wonderful, tender love. Candide says he has known such love, but all it ever got him was a few kisses and twenty kicks to his backside; he wonders how love has done such an abominable thing to the philosopher. Pangloss explains.

He used to love (and have sex with) the baroness’s pretty maid, but she was infected by, and transmitted to him, a disease which killed her. She got the disease from a very learned Franciscan who took great pains to track the disease to its original source. He got it from an old countess who got it from a cavalry captain who got it from a marquise who got it from a page who got it from a Jesuit who, before he took his vows, got it directly from one of Christopher Columbus’s companions. Pangloss will not give this disease to anyone else, as he is dying.

Candide thinks this disease has a strange genealogy and asks if it was not the Devil who was at the root of it. Pangloss assures Candide that, in the best of all possible worlds, this disease was a necessary thing. After all, if Columbus had not, on an island of the Americas, caught this pestilential disease which poisons the ability to reproduce (which is in direct opposition to all of...

(The entire section is 804 words.)