This is a story about the adventures of a man named Candide who grows up in the German castle of Westphalia. He is sensible and bright, taking to the philosophy of Pangloss, a philosopher who believes that all things happen for good. Candide gets run out of Westphalia by the Baron after expressing a romantic interest the beautiful Cunegonde, the Baron’s daughter. Still, Candide is determined to reunite with her some day. After joining the Bulgarian army, Candide again runs, but meets Pangloss, who is disfigured and sickly.
Pangloss tells Candide that Westphalia was attacked and that everyone died.
The two of them travel to Portugal with the aid of a friendly man, who dies in a terrible storm at sea. After surviving an earthquake, Candide and Pangloss are convicted and each sentenced: Candide to be whipped and shot, Pangloss to be hanged. Pangloss is hanged, but Candide is saved by an old woman, who heals his wounds. The old woman takes Candide to Cunegonde, who survived the attack on Westphalia, and explains how she is now the property of two other men.
Candide slays the two men who own Cunegonde and he takes her and the old woman to the New World to escape persecution. As they are sailing, the old woman shares her own journey from princess to slave. When they arrive in the New World, the local governor sees Cunegonde and wants to marry her. But before Candide can protest, he sees a ship arrive whose intentions are to arrest him for the slayings. Candide leaves with a local guide, Cacambo, and they find refuge in a nearby settlement.
There, Candide discovers that Cunegonde’s brother is a commanding officer, having also survived the attack on Westphalia. However, the men fight and Candide stabs Cunegonde’s brother before fleeing.
Candide and Cacambo then find a city of gold, El Dorado. Although the city is full of riches, the people live in peace and harmony.
Candide and Cacambo enjoy their time in the city, but decide to take some of the riches with them to buy back Cunegonde.
However, on their trip back, they lose most of their gold-carrying sheep and are forced to leave the riches behind. Candide decides to split off from Cacambo, instructing him to take most of the gold, buy Cunegonde, and meet him in Venice. After his gold is stolen by a Dutch sea captain, Candide decides to travel to France with Martin, a philosophical man who believes the worst in mankind. In France, Candide and Martin run into Cacambo, who is now a slave to a former sultan. Cacambo tells them that Cunegonde is a slave in Constantinople and has grown ugly.
Still, Candide is determined to see her. As they are sailing to Constantinople, the group discovers that Cunegonde’s brother and Pangloss are rowing the boat. They land in Constantinople and Candide sees Cunegonde, ugly and beaten, and the old woman. He buys them, still wanting to marry Cunegonde. In the end, Candide buys a small Turkish farm with the rest of his money and they all live on the farm together.
Initially, readers should be able to identify the author‘s use of satire as social commentary on money, relationships, slavery, and the evilness in people. Yet the strongest satire is saved for religious commentary.
In the story, religious figures are often portrayed as hypocrites who display acts of lust, greed, and selfishness. This story also portrays the incomplete story.
Often, readers are led to believe that characters have died, but in fact, those characters survive and return by the end. This demonstrates the survivability of humans as organisms, but also an exciting literary device: the limited narrator. What this does is limit the reader’s knowledge of the world and create new surprises that the reader and main protagonist share together. Through all of Candide’s misadventures, his belief that everything works for good acts as a strong constant.
This philosophy, in a way, is mocked by the author as Candide takes it to extremes in some cases. This ultimately leads to the conclusion of the story where Candide realizes that, in the end, it doesn’t really Dener whether events, good or bad, work out. Ultimately, we, as humans, are meant to work and experience, not to think or judge whether our experiences are for the benefit of ourselves and those around us.