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Candide | Study Guide


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Candide | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


Who is the "Liebniz" Pangloss refers to in Chapter 28 of Candide?

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) was a German philosopher and mathematician. Among other things he developed the theory of dynamics, a study of energy, and invented differential and integral calculus. However Pangloss admires Leibniz for his theory of sufficient reason. It's the basis of philosophical optimism, which purports that nothing occurs without a reason. And since God is kind, everything that occurs happens for the greater good. This revelation came to Leibniz early in his career, when he was working with the archbishop of Mainz to avoid a potential war between France and the Holy Roman Empire. Leibniz's thinking led him to believe that everything boils down to God's freedom of choice. That only God is capable of free will was a popular belief during the Enlightenment, and it's what gets Pangloss in trouble with the Inquisition. Voltaire, however, thinks that denying humans free will is an act of evil. He believes people can change their situations for good or bad, exactly what Candide ultimately realizes after abandoning his tutor's ideals.

What is the nature of the love between Candide and Cunégonde?

The relationship between Candide and Cunégonde, like many relationships, is complicated. They begin their courtship with a chaste kiss and a genuine affection for each other; the third-person narrator tells us how ardently Candide adores Cunégonde; however, he does not indicate the extent of her feelings. When they are reunited after Candide's exile, he is devoted to her despite her relationships with Don Issacar and the Grand Inquisitor and the fact that she has been raped. Cunégonde is delighted to see Candide, but more out of sheer survival instinct than love. Marrying him is the answer to all of her problems. When he tells her of his adventures, she cries about the deaths of Pangloss and the Anabaptist, but she has no emotional reaction to Candide's own suffering. In Buenos Aires Cunégonde shows various shades of love for Candide as she dithers about whether to go with him or remain with the governor. Security wins out over affection, and she stays in Buenos Aires. Their parting leads to Candide's manic obsession with Cunégonde, and she becomes more of a fantasy figure than flesh and blood. He speaks of her constantly, as if she were a destination instead of a person. She is his only hope for a better life. Their ultimate reunion comes as a disappointment to him. She is not the Cunégonde Candide remembers. Perhaps Candide's imagination has inflated her beauty and demeanor, or maybe her hard road in life really does take a physical toll; either way, this is not a woman he wants to marry. There is no love between the two at the end of the book. Cunégonde marries Candide for security, and Candide marries her to spite her brother.

How does Martin's pessimism support his belief that Paquette and Brother Girofleo will be worse off after receiving Candide's money?

Martin operates under the general belief that, at the core, everyone is unhappy, and his life observations and experiences support his pessimism. Like the old woman, he has seen enough suffering in his lifetime to know that everyone has an unfortunate story to tell. A natural pessimist, Martin immediately suspects the worst when he sees an overly enamored couple walking down the street. He has far more life experience than Candide, and he has seen both the false hope and corruption of values caused by a weighty purse. Also unlike Candide, Martin at one time earned a living and had some money to his name. He knows firsthand that money cannot buy happiness.

What finally changes Candide's mind about philosophical optimism?

Candide suffers greatly throughout his life: he's beaten, robbed, cheated, and exiled from his home. Many people would give up, but he continues on in the hope of reuniting with Cunégonde and finally marrying her. He has been taught to believe that everything works out for the best; all of his suffering, he reasons, is simply to bring him back to the woman he loves. When the pair finally reunites in Propontide, Candide realizes that philosophical optimism can't possibly exist because the goal of his personal suffering does not exist. The beautiful, sweet woman he remembers has turned into a hardened shrew without a shred of beauty. He doesn't want to marry her; "seized with horror," he can barely even hug her. His despair confirms what he has gradually begun to suspect during his journey from one side of the world to the other: sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all.

What is meant by the words "we must cultivate our garden" in Candide?

The last words of Candide are "we must cultivate our garden." Candide is responding to Pangloss's lecture about how Candide's travels and travails were all for the greater purpose of getting Candide to this place and time where he is "eating candied citron and pistachios." Candide's response confirms that he no longer has any interest in talking about philosophy with his former tutor. He prefers to focus on the actions needed to make his life truly and realistically happy, by tending to the communal garden. Candide's final remark signals his complete abandonment of philosophical optimism. He hasn't joined the Manicheans with Martin but has rather ended up with a philosophical standpoint somewhere in between Martin and Pangloss's extremes. Like the old farmer, Candide no longer needs a formal life philosophy. He finds happiness through hard work.

Why does Voltaire exclude the Young Baron from the final character group in Candide?

After Candide buys the farm in Propontide, he tells the Young Baron that he's going to marry Cunégonde. The Young Baron becomes furious again, saying Cunégonde "shall never marry unless it be a baron of the Empire." No matter what Candide does, he will never be good enough for Cunégonde unless he's a noble. Candide and the rest of the group, save Cunégonde, decide the Young Baron needs to go. This dismissal of the Young Baron prior to the story's resolution is indicative of Voltaire's thoughts about class and status, particularly in regard to nobility. Despite the fact that the Young Baron loses everything, he still thinks himself superior to those around him, even the man who saves him and his sister from lives of servitude. Had he stayed with the group, its members likely would never have found contentment. He would have thought he was better than everyone else, refusing to do his fair share of work on the farm. True happiness, Voltaire suggests, comes from hard work done together. The Young Baron would never have been happy, which would have made everyone else miserable. Voltaire had to dismiss the Young Baron before presenting the story's moral.

How does Candide's relationship with Pangloss evolve over the course of the story?

Candide begins with Candide and Pangloss in hierarchical roles as student and tutor. Candide fervently admires his wise teacher, and often finds himself thinking about Pangloss's lessons on philosophy and life after his expulsion from the castle. Their relationship shifts when they meet again in Holland. Candide, mistaking Pangloss for a beggar, gives him money. After he recognizes the disfigured man, he arranges for Jacques, the Anabaptist, to pay for Pangloss's medical care and secures him a position in Jacques's business. Pangloss, in a sense, has become Candide's ward, which raises Candide above him. Yet Candide acts as if Pangloss is still the dominant one, accepting Pangloss's philosophizing as gospel. Until his death in Lisbon, Pangloss serves as a father figure to Candide. Yet when the men are reunited in Turkey, Candide has the upper hand. Pangloss "threw himself at the feet of his liberator [Candide] and bathed them with his tears." Candide has money, which Pangloss does not, and he has saved Pangloss from a life of servitude. Even more importantly, Candide no longer feels the need to ask for advice from the scholar. Both men endure brutal life experiences that now make them equals. When Candide tells Pangloss that he'd rather tend his garden than talk philosophy, he no longer worries what his tutor will think.

How, if at all, do the mood and tone of Candide change during the course of the story?

The tone of Candide, showing the author's attitude toward his subject, is consistent throughout the book. Voltaire uses a light touch describing the unfortunate events that befall each character. For example, after Cunégonde kisses Candide and he is exiled, "all was consternation in the most beautiful and delightful of all possible castles." This rejection is a terrible event that affects the rest of Candide's life, but Voltaire treats it as an amusement. His lighthearted tone is present throughout the rest of the novella as well. When Candide and company finally rid themselves of the Young Baron, Voltaire says, "they had the double satisfaction of duping a Jesuit and punishing the pride of a German baron." The mood of Candide, the atmosphere of the scenes and the emotions of its characters, changes to reflect Candide's varied experiences and his outlook on life. The mood bobs up and down as Candide gains hope or loses it. For example, the mood is happy when he's at Thunder-ten-tronckh, but his expulsion has him crying and "raising his eyes to heaven"; he is described as forlorn and exhausted. By the end of the book, the mood is neither happy nor sad. It is one of quiet contentment, as when the narrator says, "Cunégonde was still very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry-chef." Candide finds neither ecstasy nor sorrow in his eventual home, reflecting his hard-won philosophy.

How is the biblical Garden of Eden related to the events of Candide?

Several scenes in Candide are allusions, or references, to the Garden of Eden. Thunder-ten-tronckh, which Pangloss says is "the finest of castles" in this "best of all possible worlds," represents Candide's and Cunégonde's Garden of Eden. Life there is sublime. Like Adam, Candide does not question what is outside the castle/garden walls. He thinks that since God controls everything, Thunder-ten-tronckh is exactly the place he is meant to be. Yet the castle, like the famous garden, isn't immune to curiosity and sin. Cunégonde's desire to kiss Candide mirrors Eve's desire to take a bite of the apple. These simple acts both result in expulsion. Candide is cast out into the harsh world beyond the castle walls, where sin runs rampant. Candide eventually gives up his dreams of wealth and status, instead settling down on a small farm with his friends. It is here, doing hard work in their "garden," that they finally find happiness. The framing device of the garden, which begins and ends the story, works to suggest that Paradise may have been lost but it has been regained.

What is the significance of the characters' names in Candide?

Candide is a satire, which means that it uses humor to expose and mock undesirable traits in a person, event, genre, or society. Voltaire wrote Candide to satirize certain beliefs of the Enlightenment, particularly those pertaining to philosophical optimism. He makes tongue-in-cheek commentary throughout, but his wit is immediately noticeable in the names of the characters. Candide, the most innocent and trusting character in the book, gets his name from the Latin word candidus, which means "white" or "pure." This is why the narrator says, in Chapter 1, "He combined solid judgement with complete openness of mind; which is the reason, I believe, that he was called Candide." Pangloss's name comes from pan, the Greek word for "all" and glossa, the Greek word for "tongue." This name fits him perfectly, as he talks all the time, about all sorts of things. Cunégonde's name is similar to that of St. Kunigunde, the wife of Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, who took a lifelong vow of chastity. In stark contrast to her namesake, Cunégonde ends up in sexual service for numerous men. Her name is possibly also a pun on a Latin word for the vulva. Voltaire also packs a lot of information about minor characters into their names. Monsieur Vanderdendur, the man who bilks Candide out of money for a ship he never actually boards, gets his name from the French de la dent ture, which means "of the hard tooth," indicating that he's a hard bargainer. Signor Pococuranté is named after the Italian words poco curante, which mean "little caring." His name alone indicates that he finds pleasure in almost nothing.

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