Candide | Study Guide


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Chapter 19

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 19 of Voltaire's novella Candide.

Candide | Chapter 19 | Summary



The journey doesn't go nearly as well as planned. All but two of the llamas die or disappear, making it impossible to carry all of the jewels and gold from El Dorado. Still the men have "more treasure than the King of Spain will ever possess."

Their positive outlook evaporates when they meet a one-armed, one-legged black man outside of Surinam. He is a slave in a local sugar mill. A finger got caught in the machinery, so his arm was amputated. When he tried to run away, a leg was taken. This misery is too much for Candide, who renounces Pangloss's optimism.

Candide finds a Spanish skipper who agrees to take him and Cacambo to Buenos Aires, but the skipper backs out of the deal when he finds out they're going to get Cunégonde, who has become the governor's favorite mistress. Heartbroken, Candide sends Cacambo to Buenos Aires to buy Cunégonde from the governor; the plan is for the trio to reunite in Venice.

Candide stays in Surinam to prepare for the voyage, hiring servants and buying supplies. The greedy Monsieur Vanderdendur keeps raising the price of the chartered ship, and, realizing that Candide's two llamas are carrying a lot of treasure, steals them for himself. After turning to the local magistrate for help and getting swindled in return, Candide is left with only a fraction of his original wealth. He books a cabin on a ship going to Bordeaux, France, and hires a scholar named Martin to come along as his valet and companion.


Candide's life isn't really any worse when he leaves El Dorado, but it certainly seems as if it is, particularly in terms of wealth. Candide is penniless until he arrives in El Dorado, but he is moderately happy. As he sets sail for France, he's better off than when he started, but he is infinitely unhappier. Here Voltaire shows that having a taste of wealth and losing it is far worse than never being rich. When you're poor you have no idea what you're missing, so you find contentment elsewhere. In the grand scheme of things, money rather limits a person's capacity for happiness.

Candide's unhappiness isn't just because his wealth is gone: it's because it is taken by another person. "The wickedness of man" is what really upsets him. The philosophical optimism Pangloss touts is based on the idea that humans are inherently good. Candide sees significant evidence to the contrary in Surinam. Between the plight of the cotton mill slave and the loss of his wealth at the hands of another, Candide learns that evil does exist in the world and appears to originate from man.

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