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Candide | Study Guide


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Chapter 21

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 21 of Voltaire's novella Candide.

Candide | Chapter 21 | Summary



Candide and Martin are still sailing to France, which Candide learns Martin has visited before. He had an awful time, ending up in jail mistaken as a thief. Candide has "no interest in seeing France," since he has already seen El Dorado, the best of all possible worlds. All he really cares about is seeing Cunégonde.

The men discuss the origins of the world—whether it was really all covered in water, why it was made, and whether its inhabitants have always been as awful as they are now. Martin points out that if hawks have always eaten pigeons, then men have always been killers, liars, and cheats; it is just part of their nature.


Martin's Manichaeism results in a world view of doom and gloom. He thinks the world was created "to make us mad," and he finds no surprise or delight in anything, not even the coupling of apes and humans. He is the antithesis of the naive and curious Candide, who has more questions than answers.

Candide is always asking advice of everyone he meets: first Pangloss, then the Anabaptist, then the old woman, and now Martin. Anyone who is older than Candide serves as his teacher. Thus far in his journey, he lacks the confidence to form theories of his own. Although he is technically an adult, he acts like a child who is fixated on a single desirable toy: Cunégonde.

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