Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2015
Candide is a dazzling display of ridiculously brutal situations that dramatize the many evils of human experience. Voltaire speeds the reader through multiple episodes of extreme cruelty that prove both horrible and vibrantly comic. Nothing seems to escape his satiric treatment, and one is tempted to say that Voltaire's only...
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Candide is a dazzling display of ridiculously brutal situations that dramatize the many evils of human experience. Voltaire speeds the reader through multiple episodes of extreme cruelty that prove both horrible and vibrantly comic. Nothing seems to escape his satiric treatment, and one is tempted to say that Voltaire's only purpose in the work is to condemn. A closer reading, however, reveals the limitations of this perception. Voltaire's criticisms are tempered by both comic exaggeration and a strong moral sense that wishes to expose wrongs in order to alleviate them. The key targets of Voltaire's satire are totalizing perceptions of the world, whether extreme optimism or extreme pessimism, both of which offer excuses for indifference to human suffering. Voltaire explores this subject through Candide's many misadventures; indeed, understanding Candide's haphazard growth is necessary for understanding the development of the story, which often seems patternless. But one cannot understand Candide without also understanding those around him and the roles that they play in the story. Through his characters' experiences, relationships, and final solution to their many troubles, Voltaire shatters the tenets of "rationally" optimistic and deadeningly pessimistic philosophies, replacing them with a vision, albeit tentative, of practical, communal work.
From the first chapter, Voltaire portrays systematized optimistic philosophies as totally divorced from lived reality. Voltaire's main proponent of this belief system, Doctor Pangloss, is a follower of Gottfried Leibnitz, who attempted to use logic to explain the existence of evil. Leibnitz asserted that laws of "sufficient reason," such as unalterable mathematical relationships, restrain even God's ability to create a perfect universe. Thus, while the world contains evil, it is still the "best of all possible worlds," one of the book's most memorable satiric refrains. Pangloss upholds such beliefs to the point of absurdity, justifying all events through cause-and-effect relationships. For instance, he contends that "things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: our noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles." His "lessons" are rife with such tortured logic, making him the epitome of a learned fool. Voltaire proceeds to bludgeon Pangloss's reductive, self-serving ideals by opposing them with constant examples of human cruelty and natural disasters that apparently defy all explanation, particularly Pangloss's.
Yet Voltaire does not characterize Pangloss's beliefs as simply foolish. They are dangerous. They allow people to justify any inhumanity and prevent them from actively helping to alleviate the suffering of others. If, for instance, one can relate another's miseries to preceding causes, no matter how slight, then one need not act on that person's behalf or even feel sympathy. Voltaire demonstrates the pernicious effects of Pangloss's beliefs in multiple episodes, but none more so than in his response to Jacques the Anabaptist's death. When Jacques is thrown overboard during a storm, Pangloss prevents Candide from trying to save him by "proving that the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for this Anabaptist to drown in." Instead of reacting with compassion, like Candide, or even explaining that Candide will only die in the futile attempt to retrieve his friend, Pangloss resorts to a bold-faced absurdity that excuses his passivity and callousness. Because he can construct the flimsiest of "rational" explanations for this tragedy, he can save his own skin and absolve himself of any culpability in Jacques' death. By presenting many such moments, Voltaire makes the philosophical vindication of rampant injustice and destruction into a caustic joke of seemingly cosmic proportions.
As he does with Pangloss, throughout the book Voltaire employs vivid secondary characters who serve particular functions and represent types of responses to the human condition. By pairing Candide with such emblematic yet compelling figures, Voltaire highlights Candide's reactions to the guidance others provide him. And, because most of these characters remain unchanged in their basic attitudes, the reader can trace Candide's sometimes erratic development. First, of course, Voltaire depicts Candide under Pangloss's influence. The young man naively believes in the world's "right-ness" and cannot assimilate the slaughters and injustices he encounters. Voltaire balances Pangloss's influence in the book, however, by contrasting him with men like Martin and the wealthy Pococurante, both of whom reflect the inadequacy of total pessimism, showing it to be as self-defeating as irrational optimism. More pragmatic characters like the old woman, Jacques, and Cacambo expose the limitations of pure practicality, but this approach to life ultimately proves most sympathetic to the characters' final attempt to secure their comfort and security.
Because of his unremitting pessimism and dark wit, many readers have viewed Martin as a voice for Voltaire's own views. Yet, as a passive man who can see the goodness in no one, he differs fundamentally from Voltaire. Martin's assertions are often penetrating and bitingly clever, but they also are essentially empty. Martin feels no outrage at injustice since, as a Manichean, he believes that God and the devil hold equal power in the universe and the devil effectively rules human existence. For him, misery is universal and inevitable; any efforts to curtail it are futile. This philosophy enables him to avoid emotional attachments or commitments to others. For example, even though he stays with Candide and the group on their farm, he does so only because "things are just as bad wherever you are" and working without argument is "the only way of rendering life bearable." Like Martin, the rich senator Pococurante is unable to experience joy in anything, and he, too, is often taken as a counterpart to Voltaire, with whom he shares iconoclastic literary tastes. With Pococurante, even wealth proves a burden. Because he can possess anything he desires, little satisfies him. He longs for nothing and is besieged by the malady that haunts Candide and the others in Constantinople: boredom. Though Candide thinks Pococurante a "genius" and "the happiest of all men, for he is superior to everything he possesses," Martin recognizes, as always, the man's true misery. The reader, too, can see that Voltaire satirizes the person who can only reject and not embrace, who refuses to see any beauty in human achievements.
The three characters who appear to garner the lightest of Voltaire's satiric barbs are the characters who rely on practical action instead of paralyzing philosophical indifference. The old woman, Jacques, and Cacambo all suffer considerably throughout the course of the work, but their decisive actions still provide sharp counterpoints to the inertia and ineptitude of the other characters. The old woman, though most often self-serving and even callous, makes a fit tutor for Cunégonde. Both women are victims of rape, violence, and enslavement, but the old woman has learned to survive and not exaggerate her often outlandish injuries. Like Martin, she harbors no romantic delusions; unlike Martin, however, she is not utterly hopeless. She often moves quickly to save herself, Cunégonde, and Candide, such as when she calmly arranges their escape after Candide kills Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor. Indeed, despite her frequent desire to commit suicide, she continues on because she is "still in love with life." With this assertion, she articulates (and exemplifies) one of Voltaire's central themes in the book: humankind's absurd yet unconquerable will to live.
Jacques and Cacambo often act out of more benevolent impulses than the old woman, but they share her commitment to tangible endeavors. Jacques, especially, represents an ideal. He aids both Candide and Pangloss because they are fellow men in need, not because he hopes to exploit them. He is not an idealist, but a virtuous man who values work, believes in humankind's basic goodness, and knowingly acknowledges people's capacity for self-corruption. His presence in the book is brief, however, perhaps because someone of his humane character would tend to blunt the edge of a satire. Voltaire gives Jacques a fitting death for this radically unjust world: he perishes while rescuing a man who has done him ill and who takes no notice of his demise. Like the country of Eldorado, then, Jacques stands as a testament to what people can achieve if they respond to what is best rather than worst in themselves, which most rarely do. Cacambo, too, reflects the value of maintaining sympathy and loyalty, though he is more of a survivor than Jacques, acting with quick-witted self-interest when the need arises. His most exemplary characteristic is his devotion to Candide, whom he supports simply because Candide is "a very good fellow." He even works to fulfill Candide's plan to rescue Cunégonde from Buenos Ayres, though he could, as Martin believes he has, run off with the jewels from Eldorado and avoids his eventual enslavement by a deposed monarch. Thus, both Jacques and Cacambo counter the predominant exemplars of human malevolence in the book, preventing Voltaire's satire from descending into a misanthropic condemnation of all humanity.
Voltaire's protagonist must negotiate these differing approaches to life, judging them according to his own experiences. Candide, while generally likable because of his genuineness and compassion, is a parodic version of the bildungsroman hero, who matures while being subjected to many trials. Candide's gullibility is so extreme, his trials so outrageous, and his reactions so farcically naive that he often appears ridiculous. Through most of the book, he also is driven by lust and a hopelessly idealized perception of Cunégonde. These desires, though, keep Candide moving forward, pursuing a goal, and believing in the possibility of happiness. And, despite his frequent bungling, he does grow throughout the course of the book, finally qualifying his initial optimism, while avoiding outright pessimism. His dreams about Cunégonde may get crushed, which is not unexpected given their blatant romanticism, but he still keeps his word and marries her, thereby remaining true to his own basically honest disposition. He also does not attempt to rationalize his thwarted passions with Pangloss's empty formulations or sink into Martin's passive despair. Desire, though radically tempered, still pushes him forward, looking for ways to live a satisfactory life without exploiting others. In the world of Candide, that makes him a fit, if comic, hero.
But what of his closing statement in the book, that he and the others "must cultivate our garden"? This vision has spawned much critical discussion, and readers still disagree over its message. Is it, as many argue, an assertion of the sustaining power of mutual labor, and if so, is it an adequate response to life's injustices and the need to improve the human condition? Some critics, like William F. Bot-tiglia, contend that Voltaire offers his closing sceneas a viable means of finding contentment and limiting social evil. Others, however, particularly Roy S. Wolper, see the close as ironic. Wolper holds that Voltaire satirizes Candide, depicting him as a man who has learned nothing and who, in effect, helps to perpetuate inequality and suffering. The tone of Voltaire's presentation and the fact that Candide remains essentially decent would seem to qualify both of these interpretations, however.
The view that the small garden represents a microcosmic solution to worldwide rapacity and aggression appears overstated. The characters merely wish to find some safety and combat the pernicious effects of boredom. If Voltaire were to take a more hopeful stance than this vision of limited happiness, he would violate the bitingly satiric tone he so carefully maintains. On the other hand, the group's decision works on the practical level. For instance, they effectively banish, through choice, the destructive hierarchies imposed by political, economic, and religious institutions. Their solution may not work on a grand scale or qualify as a philosophy of life, but it does allow them a degree of beneficial autonomy and peace. Also, to say that their decision reflects a cowardly retreat into Candide's petty fiefdom ignores the fragile mutual understanding the characters develop, as well as the process of reaching this understanding. Voltaire, in essence, leaves his characters (and readers) in a precarious situation, tentatively hopeful, yet always aware of the dangers of growing too comfortable in one's righteousness and safety.
Source: Darren Felty, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 1999. Felty is a Visiting Instructor at the College of Charleston.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3665
Few literary works of the Enlightenment have enjoyed the enduring acclaim of Voltaire's Candide. Scholars consider it to be an expression of what is best and deepest in the thought of the Enlightenment. But efforts to unravel the novel's meaning from the wit and satire in which it is cast have revealed a number of philosophical puzzles which are not easily solved. Despite much sophisticated analysis, critics today seem to be no nearer agreement about the novel's meaning than they were two hundred years ago. There is an apparent consensus that the theodicy question is Voltaire's primary concern in the novel, but critics by no means agree as to how he answered it, or whether he thought it could be answered at all.
Without pressing the analogy too far, it would not be inaccurate to say that recent Candide criticism has produced its own schools of optimists and pessimists. The critics who stress the sunnier side of the Voltairian temperament (scholars such as William F. Bottiglia and William H. Barber) interpret Candide as a philosophy of hope—an affirmation of the author's faith in the possibility of limited but real social progress. In the novel Voltaire rejects the coherence of speculative philosophy in favor of the efficacy of empirical reasoning, which provides man with a practical basis for living in and acting upon a world of his own creation. But Candide, for these scholars, is not only a profession of faith. It is Voltaire's way of laboring in the garden. In composing Candide, Voltaire came to terms with the deeper issue of what the relationship between thought and action ought to be. Hitherto, he had considered moral questions only in formal philosophical essays. The inadequacy of his efforts to deal with the theodicy question in such abstract and disinterested terms drove him to despair. Through his novel, however, Voltaire tied his ethical imperatives to concrete problems of human existence. In the process, his writings acquired a new kind of energy. Thus the novel itself became a weapon in the service of a common-sense morality.
The critics who emphasize the darker recesses of the Voltairian temperament (Ira O. Wade and J. G. Weightman, for example) read Candide as a philosophy of despair—an expression of the author' s mordant insights into the demonic mysteries of the human predicament. The meaning of Candide, these scholars contend, is to be derived from Voltaire's conclusion that man is unable to bridge the gap between his powers of rational thought and his largely instinctual activity. Unable to perceive a viable relationship between thought and action by which to remedy social evil, he chose instead to transpose the problem of theodicy into an imaginary world in which he could creatively defy the chaos of the phenomenal world. What he gained in the process was not the resolution of a philosophical problem, but a deeper aesthetic perception of the process of life itself. Interpreted in this light, Candide represents a personal catharsis for the author rather than a message to "enlighten" his age.
Perhaps the inability of the critics to arrive at a consensus about the meaning of Candide stems from the limitations of the conceptual framework in which they have so long approached the novel. If Voltaire was preoccupied with the theodicy question, he considered it in an intellectual milieu more thoroughly secularized than that in which it had been posed by Leibniz a half-century before. The question which Candide raises is not the speculative one of the religious apologists of the seventeenth century, i.e., how can man account for evil in a world created by a beneficent deity; but rather the more practical one which the philosophes asked in the eighteenth century, i.e., how can good men live in an evil world? Voltaire's moralism has a social rather than a religious orientation. His concern in the novel is not to explain the presence of evil in the world, but to explore its effects upon human relationships. He traces the ways in which evil operates in the world as a framework for considering the preconditions under which trust in human relationships may be conceived. Voltaire's interest is less in theodicy than it is in community. The greatness of Candide is related to the intensity of Voltaire's concern about the relationship of man to his fellow man—his sensitive understanding that all men, optimists and pessimists alike, must journey through life by experiencing suffering that is incomprehensible, and that there is far more solace in making that journey in good company than in isolation. From this perspective, Candide is a quest for fraternity in the midst of enduring social crisis. Its meaning is less metaphysical than it is existential; less polemical than discerning, less satirical than compassionate.
Hence it is the evil which man fashions for himself that invites Voltaire's special attention in the novel. Natural catastrophes appear in the narrative, but the examples of these are only three (the tempest off the coast of Portugal, the Lisbon earthquake, and the Algerian plague), and they are dwarfed by the welter of man-made horrors which are amassed in comparison. The persistence of evil is poignant precisely because it is largely man's own creation. The dilemma is posed early in the narrative by Jacques the Anabaptist:
It must be … that men have somewhat corrupted nature, for they were not born wolves, and yet that is what they have become: God gave them neither twenty-four-pound cannon, nor bayonets; yet they have made bayonets and cannons in order to destroy one another.
Nor may social evil be escaped. The world of Candide is one of imminent catastrophe. Beauty, wealth, and power are but ephemeral possessions. With or without such assets, no one may consider himself secure. Evil propagates its wrath indiscriminately. Indeed, a confrontation with some form of misery seems to be man's only certainty. All of the leading characters are pariahs, driven from the garden of tranquility into a wider world of perpetual conflict. Whether in the military outposts of Paraguay, or the sophisticated salons of Paris, they are thoroughly trapped in the snares of society's corruption, despite their efforts to cling to the vestiges of their youthful innocence. Even the gentle Candide is caught in situations so violent that two men (and nearly a third) die by his hand.
The manifestations of social evil in the novel may appear baffling in their variety. But just as Voltaire affirmed that there is a moral core to human nature beneath the "manners of men," so in Candide he sought to locate the cause of social evil in a single source. The source is man's longing for security, which leads him into illusions about himself and his social relationships. In this sense, man is a myth maker. He fashions conceptions of the world which provide comfort in their coherence, but which are largely fictitious constructs if measured against the realities of the phenomenal world with which they are supposed to correspond. This imaginary world seals off the real world which man is afraid to confront. Hence he is unable to perceive, let alone to sympathize with, the concrete life situations of his fellow man, whom he views only in terms of abstractions. Herein lies the origin of social evil. It is these abstract conceptions of the world which enable man to exploit his fellow man without admitting the evil nature of his actions.
It is for this reason that man is so readily prepared to subscribe to some form of dogma. At the simplest level, this may be the illusion of social pretensions. In a social order built upon legal inequality, it is not surprising that abstract arguments defending the privileges of caste should be prominent. The pompous Governor of Buenos Ayres, the pedantic Parisian critic, and the Jesuit colonel in Paraguay all base their actions upon such illusory convictions. Even the worldly-wise Old Woman sentimentalizes about her illustrious background. More pernicious still are the religious doctrines with which cruelty is justified. The "sermon" at the Portuguese auto-da-fé, the "missionary work" in Paraguay, and the "conversion" of the native laborers in the sugar factories of Surinam are examples of this kind of casuistry. Speculative philosophy merely translates dogma into a metaphysical idiom. Optimism and Manichaeanism are at one in dictating passive resignation to accident and misfortune, as if these were required to preserve the harmony of a moral order over which man has no control.
The propensity to deal with man in terms of abstraction is not a matter of theorizing alone. It permeates a broader fabric of law and custom through which acts of brutality and exploitation find more impersonal expression. The political order in Paraguay and the labor system in Surinam present obvious forms of slavery. But the leading characters must continually contend with institutions which demand behavior hardly less servile and degrading. Cunégonde, the Old Woman, and Paquette are forced into prostitution. Brother Giroflé and the Baron-priest are given to the clergy when still too young to choose that vocation for themselves. The Baron-priest, again, and Doctor Pangloss must serve in the Turkish galleys at the whim of arbitrary judges. Candide, too, is inveigled into the Bulgar army in his first encounter outside the walls of the Baron's castle. Eunuchs, concubines, soldiers, and priests haplessly serve one abstract master or another, and so become enmeshed in the evil mores of the world. It is for the civilized barbarism of war, however, that Voltaire reserves his most biting satire. Its internationally recognized laws may provide the necessary justification for its toll in horror, but, as the Old Woman who has suffered its consequences attests, these can provide no consolation.
While these external manifestations of social evil find prominent expression in the novel, it is the internalization of such evil which is the most insidious. As man's social relationships become more impersonal, his innate sympathies for his fellow man are stifled. Denied the solace of genuine relationships, man in his isolation turns his hostilities inward upon himself. The result is the anguish of alienation. Boredom is a psychological expression of man's capacity for cruelty to himself. Paris is the pleasure garden where this capacity is most fully revealed—with its sycophantic parasites, callous frauds, and viciously pedantic critics. In the apparent intimacy of the Parisian salon, the wit and mirth at the gaming tables are but masks for the most ruthless efforts of men to exploit one another. As the rakes desperately vie to destroy one another, they are nonetheless enslaved to one another in the boredom of this jaded setting. Perhaps nowhere else are men so unhappy.
Boredom, however, is a form of self-retribution, and its sins are venial compared with the evil of indifference. Indifference is the most detestable form of evil because it is a denial of mutual obligations among men. The theme of the disinterested spectator in the arena of human misery is ceaselessly repeated, and no less frightening for the variations upon its setting: the sailor who loots amidst the carnage at Lisbon after the earthquake, the populace who enjoy the auto-da-fé, the crowd which disperses satisfied after the execution of the English admiral, and the passengers aboard Candide's ship who watch the naval duel in comfort. Indeed, the novel strikes its most bitter note in the passage describing the callous indifference of the Dutch judge to Candide's plight, despite the judge's obligation to help him:
This legal proceeding drove Candide to despair; to tell the truth he had endured misfortunes a thousand times more painful; but the indifference of the judge, and that of the captain who had robbed him, aroused his bile, and threw him into a deep melancholy. The malice of men stood out in his mind in all of its ugliness; he dwelt only upon gloomy thoughts.
The logic of social evil thus works toward its vicious end, and man is left with the icy axiom of the Old Woman, uttered en route from the Old World to the New:
Just for fun, ask each passenger to tell you his life's tale; and if you find a single one who has not often cursed his lot, who has not often told himself that he is the most miserable of men, toss me into the sea headfirst.
The wanderings of Candide only confirm the observations of the Old Woman. Whether it be the languid setting of the Surinam coast, the gay salons of the Parisian aristocracy, or the peaceful cloisters of Giroflé's monastery, all are but facades for the most excruciating personal anguish. Even the noble Pococurante finds his place in this familiar pattern. For all his learning, wealth, and power, he is desperately unhappy, and surely he will not find that happiness in a larger garden: Herein, Voltairian irony is at its most masterful. For the last instance of insecurity which follows from this process of alienation was in the first instance born of a quest for security.
Does Voltaire in Candide offer man any means by which to escape from this process which leads him into isolated misery? Those critics who emphasize the author's pessimism would answer, no. The world of Candide, they would argue, is an absurd world from which there is no escape, and in which there is at best the negative solace of ironical laughter. Even suicide is no alternative, as the Old Woman remarks in her reflections at sea, and as Candide demonstrates when he considers that possibility after escaping from Paraguay. The critics who read Candide as a philosophy of hope would reply, yes. The world of Candide is rational at its foundations. Man must therefore withdraw into isolated communities where, through honest labor, he may rationally refashion the world in microcosm. Through work in this limited sphere, gradual progress toward the improvement of the human condition in the world at large is possible.
There is a partial truth in each of these observations. Man cannot escape from the world and therefore must make some accommodation with it. Until the finale, this is precisely what Candide is unable to do. With the ingenuousness of Rousseau, he "always speaks as his heart dictates," and suffers accordingly. But man must temporize with the world. It is for this reason that the resourcefulness of Cacambo and the Old Woman are to be admired. Invariably, they are able to show the avenues of escape when Candide is confronted with a seeming impasse. Moreover, it is the Old Woman who suggests that the small band of friends use the last of their fast-dwindling resources to purchase a small farm where they may await a more fortunate turn of circumstances.
It is revealing that the mistress of expediency should advise this course of action. The presentation of labor in the garden goes to the heart of Voltaire's conception of the nature of the human predicament. Candide and his companions work in the garden out of necessity, but not with a spirit of condemnation. Work has none of the dirge-like connotations which the pessimistic critics assert. Work banishes the three great evils of boredom, vice, and poverty. Throughout his wanderings, Candide remained passive before experience. His nature was shaped by the ideas and institutions which others imposed upon him. Through labor in the garden, however, he has the opportunity to affirm the potential capacities for goodness which are within him, and hence to define himself against the world. The possibility that the earth may be cultivated is Candide's faith. But it is the quest for that goal, rather than its achievement, in which he finds his consolation. El Dorado may be the utopian ideal toward which man must ultimately strive, but the garden of Candide is a microcosm of the only world in which he may at present labor. Voltaire is not the bourgeois prophet of social progress that some of the optimistic critics would like to make of him. The labor of Candide and his companions in the garden reaps abundant fruits. But, as the narrative reveals throughout, progress of this sort may be stamped out at any moment.
It is more important, therefore, that work anchors Candide in one locale so that he may fulfill his most important existential need—companionship. It is only by satisfying this need that the problem of how a good man can live in an evil world may be resolved. Through work, illusions are dispelled; through common labor, a basis for communication with his fellow man is established.
Candide needs companionship. In the course of the narrative, he is never left in isolation for very long. When he is forced to part with his trusted ally, Cacambo, he immediately seeks a new traveling companion. Martin's talents may be theoretical rather than practical, but Candide soon finds that he can no more dispense with his philosopher than he can with his pragmatic guide, whose return with Cunégonde he anxiously awaits. Candide is sustained throughout his journey by the hope of finding his lover again. This hope is not for a better world, symbolized by the pursuit of Cunégonde, as some critics argue. If it were, he might just as well have remained in El Dorado. Candide is in fact in quest of Cunégonde herself, and he will allow neither the barriers of caste nor the delights of El Dorado to stand in his way.
Is Candide's faith in the possibility of trust in human relationships but another illusion? Both the Old Woman and Martin answer in the affirmative, the former for practical, the latter for philosophical reasons. The Old Woman chides Cunégonde for her fidelity to Candide when such devotion threatens her own security. Likewise, Martin advises Candide to put away his thought of Cacambo and Cunégonde when they fail to keep their appointed ren-dez-vous at Venice. Martin's words, however, offer Candide no consolation. Martin, it must be remembered, has nothing for which to hope. But Candide has been sustained through the course of his travels by the solace which he has found in genuine communication with his companions. It is important to note how much satisfaction Candide and his companions find in relating the tales of their harsh trials. Compassionate understanding is gained through such commiseration. The hours which Candide and Martin while away at sea in discussions of philosophy serve the same end:
Meanwhile the French and Spanish vessels continued on their way, and Candide continued his discussions with Martin. They argued for two entire weeks, and at the end of that time they were no further along than they had been the first day. But at least they were conversing, they were exchanging ideas, they were consoling one another.
Philosophy, it seems, is useful chiefly for its aesthetic value. Nothing may be resolved in these discussions, but there is much pleasure derived from a happy exchange of ideas. It is perhaps for this reason that the unfortunate Doctor Pangloss, even as he emerges from the galleys a broken man, may still affirm that he remains a philosopher because "the 'pre-established harmony' is the most beautiful thing in the world."
Candide finds consolation in charity as well. Martin scoffs at such a notion, and believes himself vindicated when Paquette and Brother Giroflé only sink deeper into misery as a consequence of Candide's generosity. Candide's experiences among the Oreillons, and Jacques's death at sea would seem to confirm Martin's view. But Martin misses the point. Charity and evil are incommensurable. Charity's function is not to reform the receiver, but to humanize the donor. Jacques the Anabaptist is not a saint. As "a creature without wings but with two legs and a soul," he practices the religion of humanity.
Most important, Candide finds not only solace, but his only source of joy in the course of his wanderings in companionship itself. The only instances in which Candide expresses happiness are in his reunions with his former companions. There are six such encounters in the course of the narrative: with Dr. Pangloss (ch. IV); Cunégonde (ch. VII); the Baron-priest (ch. XIV); Cacambo (ch. XXVI); the Baron-priest and Dr. Pangloss (ch. XXVII); and Cunégonde and the Old Woman (ch. XXIX). Each one brings Candide as much satisfaction as the last.
Can these ephemeral moments of companionship be transformed into the permanence of community? Herein lies the meaning of the garden episode. Voltaire conceives of the garden not as a solution, but as an experiment in the quest for that ideal. The garden roots this small band in honest labor. It is not clear from the novel's finale that evil has been permanently banished or that progress is bound to follow. But Candide and his fellows can fulfill themselves through work and communicate in trust. Cunégonde is no longer all that Candide had hoped for, nor is the garden a completely ideal setting for any of his band. But the possibility of community can only be tested in a setting without illusions. Such a goal requires neither the eradication of evil, nor the continuation of economic progress, but only a faith that man may end his alienation and find his innate goodness through his trust in, and compassionate understanding of, his fellow man. Voltaire's religion is not of progress, but of humanity.
Voltaire's irony takes strange turns, and in the last analysis, Candide is not as cynical as one might expect. In his first encounter outside the castle where he had passed his childhood in innocence, Candide was deceived by recruiters from the Bul-gar army. The recruiters thought that they were being ironical when they lured him into the army by posing as his friends:
Ah, dear sir! Come to the table; not only will we pay your expenses, but we shall never allow a man like you to be without money; men are made only to help one another.
Voltaire's final parody is upon them.
Source: Patrick H. Hutton, "Companionship in Voltaire's Candide," in Enlightenment Essays, Vol. IV, No. 1, Spring, 1973, pp. 39-45.