Read-Along, Voltaire

Candide Read-Along Week III

Summary of Chapters 17-24

Candide and Cacambo head for Cayenne but stop at Eldorado along the way. In Eldorado, children play with rubies and gold in the streets. Candide tries to return the jewels to a teacher there, but he merely throws them back on the ground. Afterward, Candide and Cacambo have a lavish and complementary meal at a cabaret. Eldorado is also different from other lands because the horse-drawn carriages are replaced by sheep-drawn carriages.

The two men next meet a 172 year old man who answers their questions about religion in Eldorado. The citizens are very spiritual but are their own priests. There are no temples or clerics in Eldorado. The king is very kind to Candide and his friend; he offers to help them cross a large mountain range to return home. To accomplish this, they are given a sheep-drawn machine that can go up mountains. Candide makes sure to pack his cart with jewels.

In Surinam, Candide and Cacambo encounter an African slave who lost his left leg and right hand as a punishment for trying to escape from his slave master. He works on a sugar cane plantation and is obviously treated worse than the animals in the area. The man tells them about the hypocrisy of the priests on Sunday. They preach that all people are the children of Adam but

“vous m’avouerez qu’on ne peut pas en user avec ses parents d’une manière plus horrible.”

[you must admit that one cannot treat one’s parents any more horribly.]

After hearing the slave’s story, Candide cries for the first time in the novel.

Candide decides to go to Venice since it is widely known for being a city that is friendly to foreigners. But, after giving some jewels to Cacambo to ransom Cunégonde from the governor of Buenos-Ayres, Candide loses the rest of his new-found wealth in trying to convince the African slave’s master, Vanderdendur, to accompany him to Venice. Candide is not able to legally bring the thief to justice.

Candide then befriends a man named Martin. Martin is a Manichean and a pessimist. He believes that this is the worst of all possible worlds. He lacks hope. He and Candide leave for Bordeaux. The thief that robbed Candide of all his Eldorodan jewels is killed when his ship is sunk by an enemy ship. Martin points out that all the other people in the ship drowned too, and they had done nothing wrong. Still, Candide holds fast to Pangloss’ philosophy. There are times when he questions it but in the end, he is convinced that this must be the best of all possible worlds. Clearly, he is still too naive.

Candide goes to a play and speaks and gambles with some intellectuals. There, he also meets someone who offers to take him to Normandy (Basse-Normandie).

He also witnesses the execution of an admiral. This admiral was executed because he did not kept his men too far from the enemy. From time to time, admirals are killed to rouse the anger and determination of the soldiers.

Candide finally meets Paquette, the maid who gave syphilis to Pangloss. She is a prostitute. Like the other characters in the story, she has gone through many hardships. But despite all these adventures, Candide has still not lost hope in finding Cunégonde.

 Discussion Questions

1. What do you all think about Martin?

Martin is certainly more rational than Candide; however, I do not think the world is fully evil. He fails to see the good in others. At least Candide has hope.

2. Does a utopia like Eldorado sound appealing to you?

While Eldorado is definitely more appealing than any of the other places Candide has visited, I would hesitate to live there. If the king isn’t hiding anything, it may be pleasant to live in Eldorado. But, all attempts at creating a Utopian society has always ended up being a cult. There is a lot of suffering in the world, but I do not think humans have the power to end all such suffering.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind living to 172!!


3 thoughts on “Candide Read-Along Week III”

  1. Martin certainly has the evidence to back up his claims, but he can be a downer.

    And I believe the human heart desires a utopia because God placed it there, for man to yearn for the Paradise he lost and the Paradise he is to gain after death (if he has Faith in Christ). It is so tempting to want to live in a utopia, but it is probably not possible on this earth.

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