Category Archives: Candide

Pangloss vs. Life Experiences

“ ‘It is demonstrable,’ he would say, ‘that things cannot be other than as they are: for, since everything is made to serve an end, everything is necessarily for the best of ends.” (4)

At this point in the novel, all of Candide’s knowledge comes from Dr. Pangloss. The novel describes Candide as “listen(ing) attentively, and he trust(ing) innocently” (4). Candide never questions what Pangloss says because he admired Pangloss and considers him to be “the greatest philosopher in the province and therefore, in the world”(4). In addition, at this point in the narrative Candide had no personal experience of what it is like to live in the outside world. Candide’s first experience in the outside world is not until he is kicked out of the castle after he is caught kissing Cunégonde.

As children grow up they are constantly being shaped to behave, act and think a certain way by parents, other family members, and people in authority; like pastors and teachers. There comes a point where children/young adults no longer base all their beliefs on what they have been told, but also on their own personal experiences. Experiences that cause them to have to think on their own, and question what they have been taught and what they believe in. This also occurs to Candide as he is forced to live a life outside the castle, which was the only life he knew. There are moments during Candide’s journey that confirmed Pangloss’ theory that “all is best in this world”(9). An example of this is when the Anabaptist Jacques takes Candide in and provides him with some bread, bear, and two florins. There are other moments where Candide is forced to question Pangloss’ theory. After being flogged for the second time Candide says to himself “if this is the best of all possible worlds, what must the others be like?” (16). These life experiences cause Candide to reassess the lessons Pangloss taught him and also allow Candide to form is own opinion and beliefs. These life experiences lead to self-discovery and influence the way Candide sees the world.





Youth Is Narcissism

“’In short, my dear miss, I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the world, therefore take my advice: divert yourself, and prevail upon each passenger to tell his story, and if there is one of them all that has not cursed his existence many times, and said to himself over and over again that he was the most wretched of mortals, I give you leave to throw me headfirst into the sea.’” (Chapter 12 pg. 31)

This statement uttered by the old woman travelling to the Americas with Candide and Miss Cunegund serves as an emphatic bookend to the details of her trying past. The old woman says this to Miss Cunegard after she hears Miss Cunegard complain about her life and its many misfortunes. The old woman first informs her that her complaining is unwarranted: “’What murmuring and complaining is here indeed!’ cried the old woman. ‘If you had suffered half of what I have there might be some reason for it.’ (Chapter 10 pg. 23)” She then backs up her assertions with a telling of her own life’s story and concludes them with the statement above. In making this statement, the old woman accomplishes two goals. First, she legitimizes the life advice Miss Cunegard had so far been dismissing, and second, she calls attention to a staple of the typical youth mentality: narcissism.

Like many young people, Miss Cunegund was convinced that her problems were both more significant and more trying than anybody else’s and that nobody could possibly empathize with what she was going through. While what Miss Cunegund went through was indeed horrific, the old woman proved through her story that she too had been through sheer hell and in turn she had a “great deal of knowledge and experience in the world.” In addition, she tells Miss Cunegard that others have suffered as well. She implores Miss Cunegard to “…prevail upon each passenger to tell his story, and if there is one of them all that has not cursed his existence many times, and said to himself over and over again that he was the most wretched of mortals…” then Miss Cunegard would be given leave to throw her “…headfirst into the sea.” In other words, she stood to reason that everybody has problems and nobody goes through life unscathed, so to place one’s own troubles at the pinnacle of hardship is both arrogant and ignorant.

The passage as a whole speaks to the idea that hardship is relative. Everybody at one point or another has believed his or her existence to be the hardest one could endure, however irrational that belief may have been. Basically, in this passage, Miss Cunegard comes off like a youth shouting “parents just don’t understand” while the old woman comes off like a seasoned senior citizen who simply understands too much.


Escaping Misfortune

“A hundred times I have wanted to kill myself, but I was still in love with life. This absurd weakness is perhaps one of our deadliest attachments: can anything be more foolish than to keep carrying a fardel and yet keep wanting to throw it to the ground? To hold one’s existence in horror, and yet cling to it? In a word, to caress the serpent that devours us, until it has eaten away our heart?” (31)

In this passage, the old woman reflects on her story of misfortune. The old woman’s life of tribulations is much more tragic than Cunégonde’s recent struggles, and when she shares her story with the young exiles, they seem to agree.

The old woman was born to a pope and princess, and like Cunégonde, she grew up quite wealthy. With no comprehension of the treacherous reality outside of her kingdom, the old woman was thrust into a life of slavery and rape at a young age. Despite her treacherous experiences and wanting to die many times, she chose to live. The old woman suggests that even though people hold their existence in horror, they cling to their life.

Candide wishes Pangloss were still alive to hear the woman’s story, imagining he would give a lecture on the good fortune that came out of her situation. Candide governs his life on Pangloss’ eternally optimistic sentiment—even in the face of evil—that there is “no effect without cause…in this best of all possible worlds” (4). If Pangloss were alive, he would most likely find some good fortune in the old woman’s turbulent tale, but this outlook is incredibly flawed. None of the characters are experiencing any good fortune, and the old woman’s story serves to contradict Pangloss’ philosophy and expose the naiveté of Cunégonde and Candide.

However, exposing the naiveté of Cunégonde and Candide is not necessarily bad. The old woman replaces Cunégonde’s reality and replaces it with her own to show that despair and misfortune do not discriminate by social class. The whole journey is an opportunity of self-discovery for Candide as he begins to doubt Pangloss’ eternally optimistic lessons, and the old woman’s story becomes the turning point to Candide’s change. The old woman shows that misfortune is unavoidable, and although she has faced some hardships in her life and wanted to die many times, she clung on.

General Contradiction

“‘What is this country’ one said to the other, ‘which is unknown to the rest of the world, and where nature operates under laws so utterly different to ours? It is probably the land where all is well, for clearly such a place has to exists. And despite what Maître Pangloss may have said, I often noticed that everything went fairly badly in Westphalia'”. ( Chapter 17 pg. 45)

This passage might not seem all that important, but if we pay close attention to what is being said there’s some information about Candide that might seem interesting.

Before being banned from the castle in Westphalia, Candide was schooled only by  Maître Pangloss a philosopher that believed that all happens for the better. Having only him as a role model Candide was convinced that Pangloss’ philosophy was the best way of viewing life and events in general. But after being banned from the castle, Candide starts experiencing how the real world is. At first he seems to keep thinking in the same way he was taught by Pangloss, but as the story goes on we start seeing signs of doubt in Candide.

In this passage those signs of doubt become very evident. Candide officially starts questioning Pangloss views. He recognizes things weren’t that great at the castle even if Pangloss used to say the opposite. Experiencing life outside the caste is slowly broadening Candide’s view on things. Just the fact that he’s questioning the only way of thinking he knew is a huge step  towards a renewal of Candide’s person. If Candide hadn’t been banned from the castle he probably would have never questioned Pangloss’ views

Even thought Candide’s misadventures seem for the most part  bad and unfortunate they are still very important,  mostly because they initiate what’s going to be not only a physical journey but also a self-discovering  and more spiritual journey. Getting out of the caste is giving Candide a chance to discover who he really is. It’s helping him figure out his own voice and it’s helping him form his on opinions. So for how bad his misadventures seem to be they are actually very beneficial to Candide. Which raises a big general contradiction: it’s good that Candide is learning to form his own opinions, but if all the misadventures are for the better, was Pangloss right all along? Is it actually a good thing then that Candide outdistances himself from Pangloss’ views?

Everlasting Admiration

“Candide, petrified by this speech, answered him, ‘My Reverend Father, all the generations in the world make no difference. I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew and an Inquisitor. She owes me a great deal, she wants to marry me. Dr. Pangloss always taught me that men are equal, and I am certainly going to marry her.'” Chapter 15 Page 71

This passage can be divided and analyzed in three different parts. The first part is the claim Candide makes that Cunegonde owes him a debt to marry him. The second is that although a “debt” exists, the desire to be married to one another exists between the two lovers. The third part is the conflict between the idea of nobility and the equality of man. First of all, the fact that Candide claimed that Cunegonde owes him a great deal is ridiculous. The only force that drove Candide to save Cunegonde was his own love. No outside force made him perform the two murders. Cunegonde does not owe Candide anything. She did not ask him to do her any favors. The act was motivated by his own love, not the other way around. Despite the outrageous claim of a debt needing to be paid, the love between the two characters is very pure. It outlasted time, ignored social customs, and dissolved the remembrance of misfortunes that both characters had to endure. Candide’s and Cunegone’s desire to be together despite all those factors is admirable.

Evidenced by the selected passage, the existence of nobility and the statement that men are created equal clash against each other. Equality tears down the idea of nobility and the existence of nobility makes people question the equality of man. It is a vicious cycle. Because of the different social class that Candide and Cunegonde are in, the clashing ideas are constantly interfering with their happiness. Whether it is a nobleman proposing to Cunegonde or Candide being banished from the castle, the two conflicting ideas are the main source of the couple’s problems. If they would have been in the same social ranking or if the idea that all men are equal was accepted in this plot, Candide and Cunegode would have been able to live out their happy romance.