Chapter 5 Summary

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“Storm, shipwreck, earthquake, and what became of Doctor Pangloss, Candide, and Jacques the Anabaptist”

Half of the passengers are weakened and dying from the agonies of a ship rolling mercilessly at sea and are not even able to worry about the danger they are in; the other half wail and pray. The ship is broken and tattered. Some try to help, but no one is in charge or knows what to do. Jacques is on deck trying to steer the ship and is knocked to the ground by a punch from a frenzied sailor. But the power of the blow jolts the sailor enough that he falls overboard and is caught and suspended by a broken piece of the mast. Jacques recovers and rescues the man but falls into the sea while doing so, and the sailor lets him drown without even a glance.

Candide sees Jacques bob to the surface once before being swallowed up by the waves forever and wants to go save him. Pangloss does not allow him to do so by explaining that Lisbon’s harbor has been created purposefully for Jacques to drown. As he explains this philosophy, the ship breaks apart and everyone dies but the two of them and the sailor Jacques rescued. The sailor blithely swims to shore while Pangloss and Candide float ashore on a plank.

After the three recover and the storm wanes, they walk to Lisbon. They still have a few coins left in their pockets so they can buy food. As they walk, the earth begins to shake, and whirls of fire and ash cover everything. Houses and buildings everywhere collapse, and thirty thousand inhabitants of Lisbon are crushed by the rubble of an earthquake. The sailor anticipates everything he might gain, financially, in this tragedy; but Pangloss wonders what the “sufficient reason for this phenomenon” might be and Candide exclaims that this is the end of the world.

The sailor risks his life digging through the rubble for money. He finds a decent amount, drinks until he is drunk, and buys the favors of a prostitute he finds among the dead and dying. All the while, Pangloss tugs at the sailor’s arm and tells him he is not using his universal reason or making wise use of his time. The sailor claims he has traveled the world and trampled on the crucifix more than once; he is the wrong person to be lectured to about universal reason.

Candide, meanwhile, is wounded in the earthquake and is now lying in the street, covered with debris. He begs Pangloss to bring him some wine and oil to perform last rites, but Pangloss just reflects on the fact that last year an earthquake happened in Lima (with the same causes and effects) so there must be some underground connection stretching from Lima to Lisbon. Candide loses consciousness and Pangloss finally brings him a little water.

The next day Pangloss and Candide have recovered a bit and begin to help those who survived the quake. Sometimes they are invited to eat with people, and when their dinner companions are somber and weeping, Pangloss consoles them by telling them that nothing could be different than it is. In fact, he says, things could not be better; for if there is a natural disaster in Lisbon, it cannot be someplace else. “It is impossible for things not to be where they are,” and everything is good. One of the men sitting next to Pangloss, an agent of the Inquisition, politely remarks that Pangloss must not believe in Original Sin; for if everything is at its best, neither the Fall of Man nor Eternal Punishment exists. Pangloss asks the man’s pardon but explains that man’s fall and the ensuing curse are all part of the best of all possible worlds.

The man counters, asking Pangloss if he believes in liberty. Pangloss does, and claims that liberty can exist in the same world as absolute necessity, for it is necessary that everyone should be free. As Pangloss is in the middle of his next sentence, the agent of the Inquisition nods at the attendant who is pouring his wine. 

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