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SparkNotes: Candide: Plot Overview

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Based on the story by Voltaire, when the young
man, Candide, sets off to explore the world after the loss
of his fiancée, he and his companions are beset by an
endless series of comedic disasters.

In Candide, Voltaire satirizes the doctrine of Optimism, an idea that was greatly used during the Enlightenment time period by philosophers.

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Candide is a novella. It is shorter than a regular novel. Though it is longer than a short story, some critics prefer to categorize it as a ‘Conte’ or a short story. Voltaire preferred writing short stories rather than follow the rigid literary rules of the classical tragedy or the epic poetry.

In Candide, by Voltaire, greed is expressed in a satirical manner through the actions of the characters in the novel.

These trials begin when Candide innocently kisses the baron’s daughter, Cunégonde—the object of his love throughout the story—and is ejected from the estate, as are so many characters in this tale, “with great kicks to his backside”(7).

Upon publication of his most famous work, Candide, the author Voltaire saw plenty of criticism for the authorities the story questioned....


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Throughout his travels, he adheres to the teachings of his tutor, Pangloss, believing that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Candide is Voltaire’s answer to what he saw as an absurd belief proposed by the Optimists - an easy way to rationalize evil and suffering....

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At the end of the novel, he is bored and disillusioned with Cunégonde’s ugliness and her shrewish behavior. Yet he realizes that that though life cannot be ideal, it can at least be made tolerable by being practical, hardworking and honest. One cannot have the Garden of Eden, but one can at least cultivate our own garden and make ourselves reasonably happy. Through Candide and the character of Candide, Voltaire wishes to give this important message to his readers.

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He goes to America hoping that he will find a better world. But he soon realizes that it is no better than Europe. In Paris he gets sick. In England his health is better. To a certain extent he represents Voltaire himself. Voltaire was disgusted in France and was much better off in England. Candide is ill treated by the nobleman Rohan-Chabot. Candide is imprisoned just as Voltaire was imprisoned in the Bastille for no fault of his. It is presumed that Candide maybe the illegitimate son on the baron’s sister. It is also presumed that Voltaire may have been the illegitimate son of Rochebrune. Through a series of adventures - tragic, comic, and eerie, he becomes an experienced mature person. There is sin and sufferings everywhere except in Eldorado. Eldorado is a haven of peace and joy. The king is free from vanity and welcomes him as his equals. Yet he does not stay long on this earthly paradise. He goes in search of Cunégonde. Such is the intensity of love he has for her. Whenever he is unable to find her he regresses to bleak pessimism. At such times he feels that Martin is right in saying that there is nothing but illusion.

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In the course of the story Candide is forced to murder a Portuguese inquisitor, flees to South America, loses Cunégonde again, and murders a Jesuit—Cunégonde’s brother who survives both the Bulgarian attack and this murder.

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She, however, also survives, witnesses Pangloss’ hanging and Candide’s flogging and sends her servant (a pope’s daughter with a sad story of her own) to fetch the near-dead hero.