Candide By François Voltaire Summary and Analysis Chapters IV-VI

Irony of ironies! The diseased, pathetic beggar turned out to be that confident exponent of optimism, the learned Doctor Pangloss, and he had a most dismal report of what had been happening in the best of all possible worlds. Candide's adored Cunégonde was dead. After having swooned and then revived, Candide might well have asked, "Ah, best of worlds, where are you?" — especially when he learned that she had been repeatedly ravished and then disemboweled by Bulgarian soldiers, who had cut her to pieces, smashed the head of the baron, killed his son, and destroyed everything — more evidence of the heroics of warfare.


Summary

Irony of ironies! The diseased, pathetic beggar turned out to be that confident exponent of optimism, the learned Doctor Pangloss, and he had a most dismal report of what had been happening in the best of all possible worlds. Candide's adored Cunégonde was dead. After having swooned and then revived, Candide might well have asked, "Ah, best of worlds, where are you?" — especially when he learned that she had been repeatedly ravished and then disemboweled by Bulgarian soldiers, who had cut her to pieces, smashed the head of the baron, killed his son, and destroyed everything — more evidence of the heroics of warfare.

Once more Candide swooned. When he revived, he inquired of his mentor the cause and effect, the sufficient reason, which had reduced Pangloss to such a pitiable state. He learned that his mentor and Paquette, pretty attendant of the baroness, had become intimate. But earlier Paquette had become infected with a social disease as a result of relations with a learned Franciscan. Pangloss then traced the infection back to companions of Columbus, who first brought it from the New World. "Wasn't the devil the root of this strange genealogy?" asked Candide. But he is assured that all was logical and for the best: had not Columbus and his men sailed to the New World, Europe would not now enjoy chocolate or cochineal; the reason had been sufficient. And is it not marvelous how the disease has spread?

Again the charitable Anabaptist came to the rescue. Pangloss was cured, suffering only the loss of one eye and one ear. The optimistic philosopher became his bookkeeper. With Candide, the two made a trip to Lisbon. En route, Pangloss expounded his philosophy to his benefactor, but the latter remained unconvinced of its validity: men were not born wolves, yet they had become wolves and sought to destroy each other. But Doctor Pangloss assured him that private misfortunes make up the general good; the more misfortunes there were, the more all was well. At this point, the ship began to endure a frightening tempest as it sailed in sight of the Port of Lisbon.

Crew and passengers alike were terrified as the ship tossed helplessly in the turbulent waters. No one commanded, none of the crew cooperated. Only the Anabaptist endeavored to help, but a frightened sailor struck him a hard blow, and from the force of it the sailor himself fell overboard. Caught on a masthead, he seemed to be lost. The good Anabaptist rescued him and lost his own life in the action. Candide wanted to sacrifice himself when he saw his benefactor die, but Pangloss convinced him that a wise Providence had arranged all this so that the Anabaptist would not survive. For the doctor, all things continued to be for the best. And at that moment the ship split open. Everyone perished except Candide, Pangloss, and the heartless sailor who had been saved by the Anabaptist. The first two reached shore on a plank.

No sooner had they reached Lisbon than they experienced, with all the others in the city, a terrific earthquake in which many thousands lost their lives and the city itself was left in shambles. Even Pangloss was at a loss to explain the sufficient cause for that catastrophe. As for Candide, he was sure that the end of the world had come. The sailor whom the Anabaptist had saved lost no time looking for money, getting drunk, and enjoying the favors of any girls he could find among the ruins. Reproved by Pangloss, he replied that he was a sailor who four times had renounced Christianity in Japan (as required by the Japanese, who resented the presence of European traders), and who had only contempt for Pangloss and his universal reason.

While Pangloss reasoned about the cause of the earthquake, the injured Candide pleaded for succor; at last the confident philosopher brought him a little water. On the next day the two found some food and worked to relieve the surviving victims of the earthquake. Pangloss, of course, gave everyone philosophical comfort. He was challenged by a little dark man, who charged that it would seem Pangloss did not believe in Original Sin: if all is for the best, then there could be no fall and punishment. But Pangloss glibly defended his position.

Since three-fourths of Lisbon had been destroyed, the wise men in Portugal, especially the scholars at the University of Coimbra, decided that auto-da-fé was called for if total ruin were to be avoided, and that the spectacle of people ceremoniously burned by slow fire should take place at once. Among the victims was a Biscayan charged with having married the godmother of his godchild, and two Portuguese known to have eaten chicken only after removing the bacon (thus proving that they were Jews and enemies of Christendom). Later Pangloss and Candide were seized and imprisoned, the former guilty of having spoken, the latter of having listened — obviously capital offenses. A week later, each was given a paper mitre and a sanbenito (a yellow robe that heretics condemned to the stake were required to wear). Mitre and robe alike were adorned fearsomely with flames and devils. The two marched in procession and heard a morning sermon followed by vocal music. Candide was flogged in time to the music; the Biscayan was burned at the stake; and, contrary to usual procedure, Pangloss was hanged. But on the same day, another terrible earthquake occurred.

Little wonder that Candide, reviewing all the things that had happened since he was turned out of the baron's castle, should wonder what other worlds were like if this one was the best. As he was being flogged and preached to, absolved, and blessed, an old woman appeared. She bade him to take courage and then to follow her.

Analysis

In these chapters, Voltaire especially attacked intolerance, injustice, and cruelty in the Church as he saw it. Once more he made a tacit plea for the use of reason and the rejection of superstition. He first leveled his critical guns at individual members of the Church who ignored their sacerdotal vows and failed to follow vocation. The social disease that Pangloss caught from Paquette was traced to a "very learned Franciscan" and later to a Jesuit. There are anti-religious satire and a rejection of the Providential theory (that of a benign God who remains concerned with the condition of humanity) in the details relating to the charitable Anabaptist, who continued to be his brother's keeper at the cost of his life. The brute whose life he had saved swam safely to shore.

Primarily it is the account of the auto-da-fé that is most devastating. The term, a Portuguese one, means "act of faith." This was the Sermo generalis, an assembly convened for the purpose of trying and, if deemed necessary, passing sentence on individuals charged with heresy. To the masses, and to many others, the name suggested the very worst horrors of the Inquisition. It is essentially this concept that Voltaire presented in his tale. The author's mockery and irony are evident throughout. Note, for example, his account of the "pathetic sermon followed by some beautiful music" heard by the condemned Biscayan, the two Portuguese, Pangloss — and by Candide, who was flogged in time to the music. Note further Pangloss' earlier discourse with the man familiar with the Inquisition. This incorporates one of Voltaire's objections to the philosophy of optimism; for him, it contradicted the doctrine of the Fall of Man.

The Lisbon earthquake and fire took place on November 1, 1755. As many as 30,000 people were killed and the city reduced to ruins. This was the crucial event that led Voltaire to make his two strongest attacks on philosophical optimism, in Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne, written shortly after the disaster occurred, and in Candide.

Voltaire achieved one of his several climaxes in the story when he had his young hero bewail the fact that he had to witness the hanging of his "dear Pangloss" and the drowning of his "dear Anabaptist, best of men," and to learn that the pearl of young ladies, Madamoiselle Cunégonde, had been disemboweled — all without learning the necessary cause thereof.

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