Candide By François Voltaire Summary and Analysis Chapters XX-XXIII

Candide and Martin, as the old man identified himself, set sail for Bordeaux, and the topic of moral and physical evil was the dominant one discussed by the two during the voyage, for both had suffered much. But Candide had one thing to sustain him: the hope of seeing Cunégonde again, and he still had some Eldoradoan gold and diamonds. Especially at the end of a meal, he inclined toward Pangloss' philosophy once more.


Summary

Candide and Martin, as the old man identified himself, set sail for Bordeaux, and the topic of moral and physical evil was the dominant one discussed by the two during the voyage, for both had suffered much. But Candide had one thing to sustain him: the hope of seeing Cunégonde again, and he still had some Eldoradoan gold and diamonds. Especially at the end of a meal, he inclined toward Pangloss' philosophy once more.

In the course of their discussion, Martin told Candide that he was not a Socinian but a Manichean (one who, according to an ancient Persian system, believed that man's soul, sprung from the kingdom of light, seeks escape from the body, the kingdom of darkness). He conceded that in view of what he had seen, God must have abandoned the world to some malevolent being — with the exception of Eldorado. Martin then summed up the miseries of the world — personal injustice and cruelties; a million regimented assassins sweeping over Europe as one nation warred against another; the envies, cares, and anxieties even in supposedly cultured cities. Candide insisted that there was some good in the world, but the pessimistic Martin only replied that he had never seen it.

In the midst of their discussion, they heard the sound of gunfire and, along with others aboard the ship, saw two ships, one French, fighting about three miles away. One of the ships was sunk; Candide and Martin saw a good hundred men implore the Heavens for help and then go to their deaths. Martin pointed out that this incident illustrated how men treated each other, and Candide conceded that there was something diabolical in what they had seen. As he spoke, a red object was seen moving toward their ship. To the great joy of Candide, it turned out to be one of his big sheep. It was then revealed that the Dutch captain's ship was the one that had been sunk. The enormous wealth the captain had stolen had gone to the bottom of the sea. Candide was sure that all this proved that crime was sometimes punished. But, asked Martin, why should so many blameless creatures have had to die? God, he concluded, punished the guilty captain, but the devil drowned the others.

The two continued their discussion. Despite the pessimism of Martin, Candide did not lose hope; he had found one of his sheep; now he was sure that he would be reunited with Cunégonde.

When they sighted France, Candide inquired whether Martin had ever been there. The latter answered affirmatively and then provided an unflattering description of the French and especially of the citizens of Paris. In some parts of the country, he said, half the people were mad; elsewhere they were too crafty; still others were rather gentle and stupid. And in every province the chief occupations were love making, malicious gossip, and talking nonsense. As for Paris, it was a mixture of everything found in the provinces. Martin had heard that the Parisians were a very refined people but was not yet convinced that they were.

Candide at first had no desire to tarry in France; he wanted to take the shortest route to Venice. Martin accepted his invitation to accompany him. Martin's logic was impeccable: Candide had money; Martin had none; he had heard that Venice welcomed the rich. And then their philosophical discussion was continued. Nothing that Candide had experienced surprised the old scholar. He had lived too long and seen too much. He believed that man had always been bloodthirsty, greedy, lecherous, hypocritical, and foolish, and he insisted that man no more changed his character than does a predatory bird. Candide objected, as he introduced the subject of free will. When the ship reached Bordeaux, the discussion was still in progress.

At Bordeaux, Candide remained long enough only to sell some Eldorado pebbles and purchase a good two-seated carriage, for he could no longer do without Martin. Since he could not take the sheep along, he regretfully gave it to the Academy of Science, which was particularly interested in sheep with red wool. He had intended to leave France as quickly as possible, but since all the travelers he met on the road said they were going to Paris, he decided to visit that famous city. Candide had just put up at an inn when he became ill from fatigue. Two doctors, many "intimate friends," and two pious and charitable ladies gave him every attention, for they had noticed his big diamond ring and his strongbox. Martin observed that once in Paris, he fell ill but had no one to attend him. "I recovered," he concluded. Thanks to the medicine and blood lettings, Candide became worse. A clergyman who was a regular visitor asked him for a "note payable to the bearer in the next world"; that is, a document signed by a non-Jansenist priest certifying that he was not a Jansenist. (For a time in Paris, extreme unction was refused to anyone who did not have such a document). Candide became incensed, and the two began to quarrel, whereupon Martin took the clergyman by the shoulders and shoved him out of the room. A police report was made of the commotion.

Fortunately, Candide recovered. A number of distinguished people came to supper during his convalescence and gambled with him for high stakes. It was no surprise to Martin that his young friend never held any aces. Among those who showed him Paris was an abbé, a scheming, parasitic individual who sought out strangers, told them scandalous gossip, and offered them pleasure at any price. First he took Candide to see a tragedy and the two were seated near several wits. One of these quibblers insisted that Candide should not have wept because the play was impossible. Tomorrow, he said, he would bring Candide twenty pamphlets written against the dramatist. Candide was informed by the abbé that five or six thousand plays had been written in France, but that only fifteen or sixteen were any good. "That's a lot," said Martin.

Since an actress who had played the role of Queen Elizabeth reminded Candide of his Cunégonde, the young man was attracted to her. The abbé offered to take him to her residence. In response to Candide's inquiry as to how queens of England were treated in France, the abbé told him that they were respected when they are beautiful and thrown into the garbage dump when they are dead. The youth was shocked, especially when Martin confirmed what the abbé had said. The abbé continued his critical description of Paris and its citizens with characteristic malice.

Because the abbé knew that one of his obscure station was not welcome at the home of the actress, he made an excuse and suggested that Candide come with him to visit a lady of quality in whose house he would learn much about Paris. And the abbé did conduct Candide and Martin to the lady's house, where a faro game was in progress. Voltaire described the play in sufficient detail — the tenseness of the players, the attempts to cheat, the characters of the players. So occupied were these people that no one greeted Candide and his companions. Meanwhile the abbé had secured the attention of the self-styled Marquise de Parolignac. (The name derives from paroli and refers to the practice of letting one's winnings ride on the next draw in a card game). She smiled at Candide and gave Martin a nod, and then she offered the youth a seat at the gambling table. Only two draws were required for him to lose 50,000 francs, but he appeared so unconcerned that the servants took him to be an English milord. Supper followed, with the usual unintelligible chatter, witticisms, false rumors, bad reasoning, a little politics, a great deal of slander, and even some discourse on literature, most of it adversely critical, reference being made to the "enormous mass of abominable books." Particularly there was a fairly long discussion of what constituted a good tragedy by one especially impressive and apparently well-informed scholar. Candide thought that he must be another Pangloss, and he asked the man if he subscribed to the optimistic philosophy. The scholar did not — quite the contrary, for everything was going wrong in the country. He referred to widespread ignorance of rank and responsibility and the senseless quarrels — an endless war. "Jansenist against Molinist, Parliament against the Church, men of letters against their fellow writers, courtiers against courtiers, financiers against the people, wives against their husbands, relatives against relatives." The naive Candide again invoked the name of Pangloss and voiced his confidence that all was for the best, arguing that the apparent evil was no more than shadows in a beautiful picture. Martin could not restrain himself. "Your hanged philosopher was an arrogant jester," he exclaimed.

After supper, the marquise invited Candide to her boudoir, where, in the course of their conversation, he was properly courteous, but he had his difficulties. The lady told him that now he should no longer love Cunégonde (for he had told her all about her) since he had now seen the marquise. "Your passion for Cunégonde began when you picked up her handkerchief; I want you to pick up my garter." Candide complied and at her further request put it on her. The marquise pointed out that she was according him unusual privileges, for she usually made her lovers languish for two weeks. When she praised the diamonds on his hands, the gallant Candide gave them to her. As he left the house, he was conscious-stricken for having been unfaithful to Cunégonde, and he received the consolations of the abbé. As for the latter, he could have fared better. He had received only a small share of the 50,000 francs Candide had lost at cards and of the diamonds Candide had given to the marquise. But determined to get more at the expense of the youth, he redoubled his amiable attentions. Particularly did he manifest an appreciative interest in Cunégonde. Candide lamented the fact that he had never received a letter from her, whereupon the abbé, having listened attentively, took his leave. Surprisingly enough, on the next morning, Candide did receive a letter from his beloved. She was in Paris! The Governor of Buenos Aires had taken everything, but she still had his heart. When he read that she had been ill, Candide was greatly concerned, torn as he was between inexpressible joy at having heard from her and then learning that she was not well.

Candide and Martin went to the hotel where Cunégonde was supposed to be staying. When the young man tried to draw back the bed curtains and asked for light, he was restrained by the maid. He addressed [the fake] Cunégonde but was informed that she could not speak. The lady behind the curtains did put forth her hand, which Candide bathed in tears and filled with diamonds. Moreover, he left a bag full of gold on the arm chair. At this tender moment, two officers appeared and arrested Candide and Martin on suspicion.

"This isn't the way travelers are treated in Eldorado," said Candide. And Martin declared that he was more a Manichean than ever. The two were taken to a dungeon. Candide provided a bribe of sufficient size to secure their release. "Ah, sir," said one of the officers, "if you'd committed every crime imaginable, you'd still be the most honest man in the world!" But why, asked Candide, were all strangers arrested? The abbé provided the answer. It was all because a beggar from Artois heard some people talking nonsense, which was enough to make him try to commit parricide. Candide was shocked at the monstrosity of the people and was eager to get out of a country where monkeys harassed tigers. He pleaded to be taken to Venice, but the officer's brother, after receiving three diamonds, took them to Portsmouth, England. Candide was not in Venice, to be sure, but he felt that he had been delivered from hell.

Voicing the names of Pangloss, Martin, and his dear Cunégonde, Candide vehemently asked what kind of a world this was. Martin replied that it was something insane and abominable. The English, he continued, had their own type of madness, and he made reference to the war between France and England in America (the French and Indian War). He described the English as being extremely moody and morose.

When they arrived in Portsmouth, the two witnessed the execution of a rather stout man who, blindfolded, knelt on the deck of a naval vessel. Four soldiers each fired three bullets into his head, to the great satisfaction of the large crowd of spectators. Candide learned that the man was an admiral whose crime was that he had not killed enough men, that he had not closed with the French enemy. "Then why was not the French admiral killed?" asked Candide. He was informed that in England it was considered good to kill an admiral now and then "to encourage the others." So shocked was Candide that he immediately arranged passage to Venice. "God be praised," he exclaimed when they arrived in that city. Trusting Cacambo as he did, he was sure that he would see his Cunégonde again and that all would be well.

Analysis

Of primary interest in these chapters is the old philosopher, Martin. In important ways, he stood for the attitude of Pierre Bayle, just as Pangloss did for Leibnitz. A word about Bayle is therefore in order. Voltaire had discovered him early, and particularly after the Lisbon earthquake his letters were filled with eulogies of him as the leading opponent of optimistic philosophy. Bayle (1647-1706), lexicographer, philosopher, critic, had been a Protestant who became a Catholic and then reverted to protestantism. At last, in faith he became a Pyrrhonian (an adherent to the system of gnosiology, which treats of the sources, limits, and validity of knowledge, and which inculcates skepticism). In a word, he was an absolute skeptic. Voltaire was especially attracted to him because he was a champion of tolerance in opinion. His attack on superstitions, his view of morality as being independent of religion, were set forth at sufficient length, especially in his Penséees sur la comòte (1682) and his greatest work, the Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697), which was enlarged in 1702 and supplemented in 1704-06 by Réponses aux questiones d'un provincial, wherein he paid close attention to philosophical and theological subjects that called for free investigation. These works recommended themselves to the philosophes, among whom Voltaire was numbered, in the author's espousal of the sovereignty of reason and his effort to remove all obstacles to its supremacy. Voltaire made Martin a Manichean who believed in two nearly equal forces of good and evil: God punished the vicious Dutch captain, but the Devil was responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people. Thus Voltaire was not arguing that evil prevailed everywhere. After all, there were men of good will like the youthful Candide, and others like the Anabaptist and the old woman and the faithful Cacambo who were humane individuals. But to ignore the extent of evil manifested at both private and public levels and to tell one's self that ultimately good emerged from it was to blind one's self to reality.

Years before Pope was to write his Essay on Man, the dictum "Whatever is, is right" had been defended by Archbishop William King in his De origine mali (1702). Bayle provided the most eloquent and telling rebuttal. How, he asked, can evil occur if the creator is infinitely good, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful? Thus Bayle emphatically rejected providentialism, as does Martin in this section. For Martin, summing up his long experiences, most men are predatory animals, cruel and unscrupulous. And if the guilty are occasionally punished, the innocent in great numbers suffer.

It is of interest to learn that Voltaire did not readily reject the optimistic philosophy. In the first of his philosophical tales, Zadig (1747), he was not without optimism. His hero, like Candide, experienced great difficulties in his travels. He was nearly strangled in Babylon, barely escaped being roasted to death in Barra, was impaled by bonzes in Serendip, and enslaved in Egypt. Understandably, he questioned the theory of providentialism. But he finally was told by an angel that there is no evil in the world from which good does not arise. The Voltaire of Candide, published twelve years later, no longer could accept this point of view. He rejected the views of Leibnitz, Wolff, Bolingbroke, and Pope: there was overwhelming evidence that all was not for the best in this world.

It was inevitable that Voltaire would have Candide and Martin visit Paris before going on to Venice and the possible reunion with Cunégonde. This gave him the chance to satirize the foibles and vices of the town. First were the unscrupulous, parasitical fortune hunters in the persons of the contemptible group, including a cleric who sought to capitalize on Candide's illness and convalescence. They remind one of the vultures in human form who fawned over the wealthy Volpone in Jonson's well-known comedy. The difference is that Volpone, the Fox, was fully aware of their intentions and succeeded in turning the tables on them. The young, inexperienced Candide could not hold his own against the group who sought to victimize him.

The avaricious abbé who conducted Candide and Martin about Paris, showing him life in so-called high society at the theater and the salon, was a particularly well-realized character. There was sufficient viciousness in the urban world Voltaire described, what with its cheats, its purveyors of slander, its bogus aristocrats, its officers of the law who are only too easily bribed, its courtesans. But the beaux, fops, and would-be wits who peopled the scene are reminiscent of those depicted in Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock.

It is Voltaire the literary critic who proved most interesting in this section. In other works, for example the satiric Le Pauvre Diable (1758), he had attacked the "writing rabble." Having himself been the target of adversely critical remarks made by would-be critics, Voltaire made the most of the chance to castigate the breed. In order to provide evidence of the critic's intellectual limitations, he quoted him as denouncing the playwright as "a man who does not believe in innate ideas." Voltaire himself followed Locke's view of the mind as originally tabula rasa, a blank slate or tablet, rather than Descartes' theory of innate ideas.

On two occasions, the author provided some personal satire. When Candide asked the abbé what he meant by "hack" the abbé replied: "A man who writes for cheap rags. A F — — ." The reference is to Fréron (whose name in full is provided in some translations), a journalist with whom Voltaire carried on a bitter feud. And when the abbé asked the Marquise what she thought of Archdeacon — — 's essays and was told that they were a deadly bore, the reference is to the Abbé Trublet, another enemy of Voltaire's.

Other points of interest in this chapter included the following. Satire of religion and churchman was sustained. A cleric was prominent among those who harassed Candide as he lay ill; and, of course, it was another self-interested churchman who conducted Candide and Martin to the theater and to the Marquise's residence. Martin spoke not only of the "writing rabble," but also of the "convulsionary rabble," a hit at the Jansenists, who indulged in manifestations of religious ecstasy or mania. To be noted also is the name Marquise de Parolignac. Paroli has been explained above; the suffic -gnac was common in southwest France, from which area came many impoverished and spurious nobility. Finally, bribery among legal officers was illustrated by the incident where Candide secured his release from prison for a price. Clearly the Paris Voltaire described was corrupt at practically every level of society.

The significant experience Candide and Martin had in England was their witnessing the execution of an English naval officer. The execution actually took place on March 14, 1747, and the unfortunate man was Admiral George Byng, who was court-martialed and found guilty of losing a naval battle to the French in the previous year. Voltaire had tried to intervene to save his life. So, far from being a digression, the report of this incident had its place in the development of the author's major thesis.

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