Characters Discussed

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Candide (kahn-DEED), a gentle, honest, and pleasant young man, reputed to be the illegitimate son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. Expelled from the Baron’s castle after exploring the mysteries and pleasures of love with Cunegonde, the Baron’s daughter, Candide travels all over the world. A dutiful young man who has been taught that this is the best of all possible worlds, Candide searches the globe for proof, meeting old friends and acquaintances in unexpected places and unusual circumstances. During his travels he has many misadventures and endures many hardships and pains. Impressed into the Bulgarian army, he discovers the horrors of war. He lives through the Lisbon Earthquake and is ordered flogged by officers of the Inquisition. He finds and loses his sweetheart Cunegonde. He discovers wealth and loses it. He kills men when he does not mean to do so. All these experiences slowly convince Candide that this is really not the best of all possible worlds. After years of wandering, he retires to a little farm where he lives with a small group of friends and his wife, Cunegonde, now old and far from pretty.


Cunegonde (kew-nay-GOHND), the beautiful daughter of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. With Candide, she explores love, only to have her young lover dismissed violently from the castle. After his dismissal, she endures much pain and many adventures. She is captured by the Bulgarians, raped, and wounded. She makes her way to Portugal, where she becomes the mistress of two men, a Jew and an officer of the Inquisition. She is reunited with Candide only to be separated from him by another series of unhappy adventures. At last she and Candide are reunited. Married, they settle down on a small farm. By that time, his ardor for her has been cooled by the adventures she has undergone and the effect they have had upon her. She becomes adept as a pastry cook, happy in that humble occupation.


Pangloss (pan-GLOHS), Candide’s tutor, a professor of abstract nonsense. Despite the terrible adventures that befall Candide and Pangloss’ other friends, he is unwilling to forgo theorizing or to admit that this is not the best of all possible worlds. He settles down with Candide on the latter’s farm after undergoing many misadventures, including being hanged unsuccessfully by the Inquisition.

Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh

Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh (tewn-DAHR-tehn-TROHNK), Cunegonde’s brother, who inherits his father’s title. He is a proud young man, even in adversity and poverty, and he refuses again and again to give his consent to a marriage between his sister and Candide. Tired at last of the Baron’s refusals, uttered with no regard for what Candide has endured on behalf of Cunegonde or the girl’s changed condition, Candide causes the proud Baron to be shipped as a galley slave.


Jacques (zhahk), a kindly Anabaptist who befriends Candide in Holland and travels with him to Portugal, only to be drowned at the time of the Lisbon Earthquake.


Martin (mahr-TAN), a friend Candide meets in Surinam. Accused by the Church of being a Socinian heretic, Martin admits to Candide that he is a Manichee, though none is supposed to be left in the world. Martin travels with Candide on the latter portion of Candide’s wanderings and settles down with Candide on a small farm.


Paquette (pa-KEHT ), a maid to the Baroness Thunder-ten-tronckh. Loved by Pangloss, she gives him venereal disease. After many misadventures of her own, she turns up again in Candide’s life and becomes a member of the little colony on...

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his farm, where she earns her living by doing embroidery.

Friar Giroflée

Friar Giroflée (jee-roh-FLAY), a discontented friar who falls in love with Paquette during her travels and leaves his order for her sake. Befriended by Candide, he joins the colony on Candide’s farm and turns carpenter.

The old woman

The old woman, Cunegonde’s servant. She relates that she was once a beautiful princess, the daughter of the Princess Palestrina and a fictional pope, Urban X. The splendid life she expects is lost when she is captured by Moroccan pirates and condemned to a hard life as a slave. She clings to Cunegonde and Candide and settles with them on Candide’s farm.


Cacambo (kah-KAHM-boh), Candide’s servant. Separated from Candide in South America, he turns up later in Venice as a slave belonging to the deposed Sultan Achmet III. Through Cacambo’s intercession, Candide and his party are allowed to visit Turkey.

A contented old man

A contented old man, who has learned that hard work and minding one’s own business are the best means to happiness. He avoids boredom, vice, and need by working a twenty-acre farm. Following his advice, Candide settles with his friends on a farm of his own.

Themes and Characters

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Although the work contains many descriptions of injuries and death, the narrative is satirical and inspires an ironic sense of humor for the reader. Candide is portrayed as an innocent and frank young man, who is probably the illegitimate offspring of a nobleman. He is continually surprised by any negative turn of events, and grateful to anyone who befriends him. At various times he is drafted, flogged or shipwrecked, and sometimes helped in increasingly improbable ways. Throughout his adventures he never forgets his tutor Pangloss's belief that this is the best of all possible worlds—though sometimes Candide rejects this belief.

The character Cacambo, who becomes Candide's loyal manservant and friend, is a man of mixed race—Spanish and South American aboriginal. By the end of the story, it is abundantly clear that Cacambo is honest, trustworthy, hard-working and almost beyond reproach.

People of noble birth in the story are presented in a positive light only when they do not assume an air of superiority based on their birth, and by the end of the story, it is impossible to keep track of the cruelty done by self-serving leaders of various countries and principalities, or of the deposed leaders who have lost their powers but not their pride. Throughout the novel, Voltaire makes it clear that humans treat each other abominably and cause most human suffering. And just as the reader might begin to assume that Voltaire attributes all of human suffering to our failure to live in peace and brotherly love, the author includes descriptions of storm, shipwreck, and earthquake. He even has Pangloss refer to an actual earthquake in Lima, Peru, which caused great loss of life. God, or Nature, is responsible for natural disasters and some human misery when Voltaire lists the world's horrors as seen and experienced by Candide. In philosophical debates, Candide also discusses if God made humans as they are, thereby relieving them of responsibility from the sins they commit. These debates are never formally completed, leading the reader to conclude that the author intends to raise many philosophical questions rather than answer them.

It is not till the very last page of the story that Candide has any idea at all of how a person ought to live. By now, he knows enough not to cause suffering in others, but at last he learns how to banish three great evils: boredom, vice and poverty. He goes to work in the garden of his modest home.


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Cacambo is "a quarter Spanish, born of a half-Indian father in the Tucuman province of Argentina. He had been a choir boy, a sexton, a sailor, a monk, a commercial agent, a soldier and a servant." He is now Candide's beloved valet and traveling companion. They experience Eldorado together. Towards the end, it is Cacambo who arranges for Candide to find Cunégonde again. Cacambo is also the one who does all the work when they first start farming.

The fantastically naïve young man who is "driven from his earthly paradise" with hard kicks in his backside is Candide. Like Everyman, from the medieval morality play by that name, Candide experiences as much as a man could experience in order to arrive at a well-deserved conclusion regarding the plight of man. He exemplifies the idea of optimism when he reluctantly enters the world and leaves the household of the Baron's castle in Westphalia behind. Westphalia, so Candide was told, is the best of all possible kingdoms. In retrospect, he sees that it had a few problems.

It is suspected that Candide is the bastard offspring of the Baron's sister and a gentleman of the neighborhood. This ignoble birth is not held over him except when it matters most—marriage to Cunégonde. In the course of his travels he is conscripted, beaten, and robbed. Circumstances make Candide a criminal, "I'm the kindest man in the world, yet I've already killed three men, and two of them were priests!" People take advantage of him especially when they learn about his love for Cunégonde. Consequently, pretenders mislead him and, therefore, he experiences the loss of love many times. During any pause in the excitement, he ponders his predicament and the human condition in terms worthy of the deepest philosopher.

Lady Cunegonde
Cunégonde is Candide's love interest. As a young woman, she sees her family butchered and is passed from man to man. She ends up with Don Issachar, whose advances she is able to adequately handle. He houses her in Lisbon and the Old Woman becomes her maid.

Having caught the eye of the Grand Inquisitor, she is then shared by the two men until rescued by Candide. Cunégonde travels with him to Buenos Aires. There she marries Don Fernando de Ibarra until Cacambo pays her ransom. But instead of reunion with Candide, she is taken by pirates and sold into slavery. When Candide pays for her freedom, she is old, ugly, and washing dishes. However, she ends up a very good pastry cook.

Brother Giroflé
Despite appearing to be a happy Theatine monk, Brother Girofé hates monastic life. His family forced him to enter the monastery so that his elder brother could inherit the family's wealth. He hates his family as a result. He fantasizes about setting fire to the monastery and running away to Turkey. Candide gives him some money and loses his bet with Martin. Brother Giroflé soon spends the money and he and Paquette, who has spent her money, run away to Turkey. There they live on Candide's farm.

Jesuit Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh
Cunégonde's brother also survives the destruction of Westphalia and the brutal slaying of their parents. The very handsome young Baron is taken in by a Reverend Father and is soon sent to the Father General in Rome. He is made a Jesuit because he is not Spanish and sent to Paraguay. There he works his way up to become a Colonel who is fighting the Spanish troops. He refuses to allow Candide to marry Cunégonde, so Candide runs him through with his sword.

After recovering from Candide's assault, the Baron is captured by the Spanish. He asks to be sent back to Rome, and leaves Rome as a chaplain to the French Ambassador at Constantinople. After being found naked with a Mussulman, he is beaten and sent to the galleys. Candide rescues him. He lives with them in Turkey but when he refuses to allow the marriage again, Candide arranges to have him put back in the galleys.

King of Eldorado
The King of Eldorado is the ideal sovereign with an ideal system of government.

Candide chooses Martin to be his traveling companion. Martin is a scholar who "had been robbed by his wife, beaten by his son and abandoned by his daughter, who had eloped with a Portuguese [and] had just lost the minor post that had been his only means of support." Martin, accordingly, is cynical and not the least bit optimistic. However, he is a pleasant man and willing conversationalist. Candide enjoys him so much that he never parts with him.

The Negro
Although Candide had several encounters with slavery, none is more memorable than the encounter with the Negro. The Negro is wearing only a pair of short blue trousers and is missing his left leg and his right hand. He symbolizes the brutality of the institution of slavery in the Americas. But also, he conjures up the first Spanish expeditions to the New World. The Spanish were so desperate for gold that they slowly butchered the Indians when they did not find it.

Old Woman
See Princess of Palestrina

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss tutors the baron's son and Candide in metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology. Pangloss contracts syphilis from Paquette and loses an ear and a nose. Then he is hanged as part of an "Auto da Fé" ("act of faith"), but not properly. The person who takes his body resuscitates him. He winds up in the galley of a slave ship and is freed by Candide. Up to the end, he still professes a belief in optimism.

Paquette is the chambermaid of Cunégonde's mother. She gives Pangloss the syphilis she contracted from a Franciscan friar. Her relations with her priestly confessor are the cause of her expulsion from Westphalia. Since then, she has lived the life of a prostitute. She winds up on Candide's farm, having spent the money he gave her.

Candideand Martin visit a Venetian senator named Pococurante. They have heard that he is a man who has "never known sorrow or trouble." They reckon that Pococurante is a wise man who will be able to help them understand such a troubling world. They expect to find a happy man. Indeed, Candide thinks that he is the happiest man he's ever seen because he is content with nothing and seems to be forever in search of contentment and novelty. Martin disagrees and says that for just those reasons, Pococurante is the most miserable wretch alive. Quoting Plato Martin says that the best stomach is not the one that rejects all food. There is no "pleasure in having no pleasure." Candide sees his friend's logic and counts himself fortunate, yet again, that he has Cunégonde to look forward to.

Princess of Palestrina
The Princess of Palestrina has the body, when young, of the Venus de Medici. She is betrothed to the prince of Massa-Carra, but he is poisoned and dies. Saddened, she goes to her mother's estate near Gaeta. On the way, Barbury pirates attack them and the Princess is raped. Then she and her mother become slaves. When the pirate ship arrives in Morocco, the fifty sons of Emperor Muley Ismael are at war. The Princess witnesses her mother drawn and quartered by four men. The Captain kills anyone who approaches and she survives. She then meets a castrato who once sang in her mother's chapel. He promises to take her back to Italy but instead sells her into slavery in Algiers where she catches the plague. She is sold several more times. Finally, she is a servant in the house of Don Is-sachar where she serves Cunégonde. Taking a fancy to the lady, she stays with her.