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Candide | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

Cacambo suggests that they go back to Europe, but there's nothing for Candide there except war and a date with a bonfire. They head for Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. Their horses die, they run out of food, and their canoe is smashed to bits. They finally arrive in a mysterious place where the roads are "adorned with carriages lustrous in form and substance," drawn by what Voltaire calls "large red sheep," which are actually llamas.

Candide and Cacambo see small children playing a game with gold, rubies, and emeralds. They have dinner in what looks like a castle but is actually an inn. The food on the table is luxurious and plentiful. They try to pay with the gold they picked up on the road, and the innkeeper laughs at the foreigners offering "the pebbles of our roadside" as payment. He says, "You have eaten indifferently here, for this is a poor village; but everywhere else you will be received as you deserve to be." Candide and Cacambo can't believe what they're hearing. Maybe this is the place where all is well; it's nothing like Westphalia.

Analysis

Candide and Cacambo are in El Dorado, the much-rumored but imaginary land sought by the Spanish since the 1400s. Said to be the secret home of the Incas, it is thought to be located somewhere between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers. Stories tell of precious jewels and gold lining the streets, and the name El Dorado soon became synonymous with utopia. In his Essay on the Manners and Spirit of the Nations, Voltaire mocks Spanish travelers who spend so much time and effort trying to get to this legendary country.

Voltaire isn't a fan of the idea of El Dorado, but Candide and Cacambo certainly are. Not only are they face-to-face with more wealth than they've ever imagined, but its existence seems proof that Pangloss's prophecy is true. There is apparently a best world, and Candide and his valet have found it. Following Pangloss's logic, all of Candide's suffering and disappointments have led him here. If there is ever an example of divine providence, this is it.

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