Voltaire was a French dude who wrote this book in 1758. Candide is a satire – it makes fun of the idea that whatever way things work out for you, it’s the best way. This was a popular way of looking at life at the time. Voltaire disagreed with this philosophy, so he made the characters in this book go through ridiculous crap (torture, jail, lost love, losing an ear, that kind of thing) to get his point across. After being imprisoned and beaten for his ideas and writings, Voltaire understood that one way to explain the craziness of government and society is through humor and exaggeration. This book is a whacked ride through weird places, war-torn countries, Kings, Queens, hottie love-fests, and big-time questions about how we all live our lives.
Candide:The main guy in the book, he’s simple and nice. He loves Cunegonde.
Cunegonde: The hottie daughter of the Baroness. Kind and stacked, she is Candide’s love.
The Young Baron: Cunegonde’s brother. He doesn’t want Candide to hook up with Cunegonde.
Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh: A rich dude with a silly name. He’s the one who kicks Candide out for messing around with Cunegonde.
The Baroness: She’s Cunegonde’s mom. She’s 350 pounds of snob.
Dr. Pangloss: Candide’s tutor. He’s smart and a faithful buddy to Candide. He believes that everything is always for the best.
Don Issachar: A man who buys Cunegonde.
The Grand Inquisitor: A dude who shares Cunegonde.
Martin: A guy Candide travels with who believes that mankind is evil.
The Old Lady: She is Cunegonde’s maid who stays with her for most of the book. She only has one butt cheek. No, seriously.
Cacambo: A servant who travels with Candide.
Paquette: A maid for the baroness who gives Pangloss a sexually transmitted disease.
The abbe: A dicky French dude who tries to get Candide’s money.
Brother Giroflee: A monk who hangs with Paquette in Venice.
James: An Anabaptist who helps Candide.
At the start of the book, Candide lives at the Baron’s giant house, learns from his tutor, Dr. Pangloss, and lusts after Cunegonde, the Baron’s sexy 17-year-old daughter. When Cunegonde and Candide are found getting it on, the Baron kicks Candide out.
After being in the army and beaten, he finds Pangloss, who’s always saying that no matter what crap life throws your way, it’s for the best. Pangloss ends up being hanged. Candide finds Cunegonde again, and goes with her and the Old Woman to South America, the "new world." Nothing’s different in the new world, things still go up and down, and then pretty much suck. Cunegonde shacks up with some King, Candide goes with Cacambo, a cool servant dude, on another journey. All along, Candide wonders if Pangloss was correct – are all things for the best?
After Candide kills Cunegonde’s brother (oops!), Candide and Cacambo run away and wind up in this happy happy joy joy place called Eldorado where everything seems perfect – people are taken care of by the government, the streets are lined with gold and jewels, and happiness abounds. But no one can be different or have their own views. After enjoying the splendor for a month, they leave with gifts (jewels, etc.) from the Eldorado people, only to have it stolen. Candide sends Cacambo to get Cunegonde from the King, who uses her as a mistress. Candide joins up with Martin, a random scholar, and sails for Venice, Italy. Martin thinks people suck, as a rule. Candide gets the stolen loot back, and they are on their way. They take a detour to Paris.
In Paris, people pay attention to Candide because he’s got money. He meets a big ass called the abbe who wants his money. The abbe fakes a letter from Cunegonde asking Candide to come see her since she’s sick. When Candide falls for it, the abbe has him arrested (since all strangers can be arrested for no good reason). But Martin, who is a fast thinker, tells Candide to give the police guy some diamonds. This works.
Candide and Martin have more adventures in France, England, and Venice and then go with Cacambo to Constantinople where Cunegonde is a slave dishwasher. Candide finds that the Baron and Pangloss aren’t dead. He pays their ways out of slavery. On shore, they find Cunegonde, who is now really ugly. Still the Baron won’t let Candide marry her since he’s not royal. He does anyway and winds up living with the Old Woman who is bitchy, his ugly lost love, with no money, with all the others there, too. They all agree to just get on with life and deal with the shit that inevitably flies. They believe that this makes things the best of all worlds.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- Candide is a nice boy who lives with the Baron (rich) and Baroness (fat).
- Pangloss is Candide’s tutor. He teaches metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology. This is Voltaire being funny and overdoing it.
- Cunegonde is Candide’s love. She’s 17, beautiful, and seductive. She sees Pangloss getting it on with Paquette, a maid, and gets all horny for Candide.
- Cunegonde and Candide kiss and grope each other. The Baron finds them and kicks Candide out.
- Candide wanders around.
- He’s approached by two men who rope him into being a "hero of the Bulgars" – sort of a glorified soldier that gets treated like crap.
- Just before he’s about to be executed, the King of the Bulgars sets Candide free.
- A war between the Bulgars and the Abars is about to start.
- A lot of people are killed during the war. Candide hides.
- After the fighting is done, Candide makes his way over gross dead bodies to Holland, where the people are Christians and therefore supposed to be nice.
- Oops – they’re not. Candide is shown no kindness – when he’s asked if he supports vague political things like "the Good Old Cause," Candide says things like, "There is no effect without cause." So he gets a pail of shit thrown on him from the window above.
- James, an Anabaptist, sees Candide and feels badly for him. He washes him up and gives him food and money and offers to give him a job.
- Candide feels that Pangloss was right in teaching him that "all is for the best."
- Candide meets an old beggar who is covered with sores.
- The old beggar is Pangloss.
- Pangloss says Cunegonde was killed by the Bulgars. Candide faints.
- Pangloss’s sores are from a nasty sexually transmitted disease he got from the maid.
- James cures Pangloss – Pangloss "only" loses an ear and an eye. Since Pangloss can still do math, James hires him as an accountant.
- James takes Pangloss and Candide to Portugal on business.
- James disagrees with Pangloss about everything being for the best.
- There’s a big storm at sea.
- During the storm, James saves some dude’s life, but then the same guy lets James fall overboard.
- Candide wants to jump in after him, but Pangloss explains that the harbor exists for James to drown in.
- The boat splits in half and everyone dies except Pangloss, Candide, and the guy who let James drown. They swim to shore and go to Lisbon (that’s the main town in Portugal).
- Suddenly, there’s a massive hurricane and the town is wrecked.
- The bad sailor dude thinks this is a good time to look for money and stuff among the wreckage.
- Candide thinks it’s "The Day of Reckoning," so when the sailor guy finds some cash and uses it to get drunk and get a hooker, Candide says he’s not thinking of the situation the right way.
- Anyway, Candide is hurt by some debris from the hurricane. Pangloss says there was another hurricane/tornado/earthquake in Lima (that’s in Peru, South America). Candide’s like, Whatever, dude, bring me some wine and stuff to make me feel better.
- Of course, the next day, they try and help others who are hurt and Pangloss, amidst the destruction, says that this is the way things should be, it’s all for the best.
- The university in Lisbon decides that burning three people as a sacrifice will keep away the bad weather. Good thinking! So they grab three people – they also grab Pangloss and Candide for no good reason.
- Candide gets his ass whipped in time with the national anthem and Pangloss is hanged.
- Candide wonders how this could be "for the best" what with his friends dead and his hottie-former-girlfriend disemboweled and all.
- Candide is overwhelmed by the suckiness of what he’s experienced when an old woman comes along to help him.
- The old woman takes him in and gives him food and stuff.
- Candide wonders who the woman is and why she’s so nice but she won’t tell him.
- The old lady takes Candide to a funky room and brings to him a veiled woman who is… Lady Cunegonde. They are both shocked and have to sit down. They go through the usual: Is it really you? Are you really here? Were you really disemboweled?
- Candide tells Cunegonde everything he went through since their kiss.
- Cunegonde tells her story. She says how the Bulgars came and killed her family one night and raped her. She says she still has a scar on her thigh. Candide mentions that he’s like to see it. Cunegonde says that he will, but keeps talking.
- Cunegonde was sold to Don Issachar, a Jewish businessman, but never let him touch her. One day, a political big shot told her that she was degrading herself by being with a Jew. The big shot guy wanted Cunegonde for himself. The two men agreed to share her in one big phatty pad.
- Cunegonde says the agreement has been going on for 6 months and she hasn’t let ether one touch her.
- Cunegonde and Candide hang out and have dinner and are just relaxing when Don Issachar comes in.
- Issachar calls Cunegonde a bitch for being with another guy and goes to stab Candide. He doesn’t know that the old lady had given Candide a sword when she nursed him back to health… so … oops. Dead Issachar.
- Before they can figure out what to do about the dead dude, the Grand Inquisitor (the other guy who shares Cunegonde, also the guy who beat his butt) arrives – Candide kills him.
- Cunegonde is surprised since Candide is such a gentle guy. But Candide explains that he’s a jealous guy in love.
- The old maid says they should all escape by horseback to a safe town. The maid adds that it will be hard for her to ride a horse since she only has one butt cheek. Nope, I did not make that up.
- Candide, Cunegonde, and the old woman reach Avacena where they stop at an inn.
- Cunegonde’s diamonds and money have been stolen.
- The old woman says they will have to sell a horse to get some funds.
- They reach Cadiz, where troops are assembling to rebel. Since Candide was in the Bulgar army, he knows the moves, so he gets to command a whole bunch of guys.
- Candide, Lady Cunegonde, the old woman, and the two servants they get for Candide’s being a Captain, all get on a ship to South America.
- They all argue about Pangloss’s views on life.
- The Old woman tells her story.
- She was once a royal beauty with "lovely breasts" – everyone adored her.
- She was engaged to the prince of Massa-Carrara, a guy she loved, but he was poisoned by hot cocoa.
- While en route to their country home by boat, they were attacked by Moorish pirates who take the "flower of her maidenhood" (yup, that’s her virginity) and go through bad shit that she describes as very common.
- The ship sailed to Morocco, where a war was raging. The woman-folk got ripped apart (for real) but the Old Woman freed herself.
- The Old Woman was helped by an Italian dude who had been castrated so he could be a good singer. Turns out the guy with the high voice was the pianist for the Old Woman’s mom and taught the Old Woman music when she was little. He said he’d get her back to her home.
- Instead, he sold her as a slave, she got the plague (a very bad disease), dealt with some loony guys who were all about eating the flesh of women, so she lost a butt cheek.
- Basically, her life sucked ass, but she is still "in love with life."
CHAPTER 13 - 15
- Cunegonde treats the Old Woman with respect after hearing her story.
- They arrive in South America and go to see the Governor. Once he sees Lady Cunegonde, he wants her for his own pleasure.
- The Old Woman tells Cunegonde to stay with the Governor since the police were close behind Candide for the murder of the Grand Inquisitor.
- Candide and his servant, Cacambo, take off. Candide cries because he doesn’t want to leave Cunegonde.
- Cacambo wants to take Candide to fight against the Jesuits, since with his army training, Candide would be a captain. But that doesn’t happen. Once they get to where the war’s going on, Candide goes to talk to the head honcho. Turns out the dude is actually the young Baron, Cunegonde’s brother.
- The Baron tells about his version of the crap that happened after Candide got kicked out.
- The Baron and Candide are all chummy until Candide says he plans to marry Cunegonde. The Baron’s like, "No way!" even though Candide saved her and loves her.
- The Baron hits Candide in the face with his sword and Candide stabs the Baron in the stomach.
- Cacambo tells Candide they better get out of there pretty fast.
- Candide and Cacambo run away and stop for a snack in a meadow. Candide is bummed that he killed the Baron.
- Suddenly, two naked girls appear with monkeys biting their butts. Nope Schoolbytes didn’t make that up, either.
- Candide kills the monkeys. Cacambo informs him that the monkeys were the girls’ lovers. Nice.
- They fall asleep and wake up tied to a tree. The Oreillons, the people who live in that area, are pissed because of the monkey deal. 50 naked Oreillons surround them.
- Candide still says all is for the best, but is bummed about Cunegonde.
- Cacambo tells the Oreillons, who are about to cook and eat them, that he and Candide are not enemies but good guys who fought for them against the Jesuits. This works.
CHAPTERS 17 - 18
- Candide thinks that the new world sucks as much as the old one did.
- Candide and Cacambo start off for some random place but wind up in this tropical paradise place where gold is everywhere and jewels are as common as rocks.
- The place is Eldorado. Everything is free – the government pays for things like restaurants and drinks, so Candide and Cunegonde are psyched.
- It turns out that Eldorado has kept its idyllic charms by not letting anyone ever leave it. This way, everyone is innocent and happy. No one has different opinions from anyone else. No one thinks for themselves.
- They hang out with the King. They get a tour of the land and chill for a month with wine, women, and other cool stuff.
- Candide feels like he has to get back to Cunegonde. Usually, people aren’t allowed to leave, but the King lets them go with a whole bunch of special red sheep that are carrying a shitload of diamonds, rubies, and gold. Candide thinks that he and Cacambo will be the richest guys in the world.
- They set off to buy back Lady Cunegonde.
- After the first couple of days, a bunch of the sheep are gone. With only two left, Candide and Cacambo see a black man who has been beaten. After hearing about his shitty life, Candide thinks Pangloss’s way of looking at life is dumb. Since Cacambo doesn’t know what optimism is, Candide explains it as believing that everything is right when it all sucks.
- A ship captain says that Cunegonde is the Governor’s favorite mistress. This worries Candide so he sends Cacambo to buy her back with some of the jewels they have left.
- Candide is bummed saying goodbye to Cacambo.
- The captain of the ship, Vanderdendur, wants Candide’s money. He takes off with the sheep (the ones carrying the jewels).
- Candide gets depressed.
- Candide interviews a bunch of guys to be a travel companion. He chooses Martin, a scholar.
- Candide and Martin’s lives both suck, but Martin’s sucks more since he doesn’t even have Cunegonde to keep him going.
- Martin’s view on life is that men are inherently bad.
- The Dutch ship carrying the bad captain who stole the sheep is bombed and the sheep swim to Candide on his boat.
- Candide says this makes up for the captain being an ass. Martin says that’s not true since the other passengers also sank and didn’t steal any sheep.
- Martin and Candide discuss whether man has always done bad things and always will.
- In France, Candide gives the sheep to a school so they can study why the sheep are red. This wins a prize.
- On the way to Paris, Candide gets sick. Lots of people know Candide has money so they all try to exploit him and take him to fancy doctors who didn’t care about him before.
- An abbe (a sleazy dude) tries to get Candide’s money by forging a letter to Candide from Cunegonde saying she needs him. When Candide goes to her with a bag of gold and stuff, he’s arrested.
- People can be arrested just for being strangers. But the diamonds serve a purpose.
- The police guy takes Candide part of the way to Cunegonde, who is in Venice, Italy.
- On board the boat, Candide and Martin talk about how screwed up England is with people wanting to kill as many people as they can.
- They arrive in Venice.
- They look for Cunegonde but can’t find her.
- One day, they make a bet about whether couples can really be happy. They see a monk and some girl and decide that they will invite them to dinner to find out if they are really happy.
- It turns out that the girl is Paquette, the skanky maid who gave Pangloss a sexually transmitted disease and Brother Giroflee (the monk) doesn’t have that great a life either.
- Candide gives them money.
- Martin and Candide talk about visiting Count Pococurante, some guy who is always happy.
- At the Count’s awesome house, Candide feels weird because, even though the Count is totally well set up, there’s no feeling behind anything. Martin thinks it’s pretty groovy.
- The Count is pretty jaded about all the cool stuff he has, like famous paintings and books, and women drooling over him.
- Soon, Candide thinks it’s a pretty cool deal, being the Count. But Martin knows the Count is bored and hates everything he has. They decide that people like having stuff to complain about.
- Candide and Martin have dinner with six random kings who have all been dethroned.
- Cacambo returns.
CHAPTERS 27 - 28
- Candide, Martin, and Cacambo go to Constantinople to get Cunegonde.
- Candide asks all about Cunegonde only to find out that she is an ugly dishwasher.
- Two slaves who help row the boat turn out to be the Baron and Pangloss – alive. Candide pays their ways out of slavery and they all go to find Cunegonde.
- Even though he went through a bunch of crap (torture, etc.) Pangloss still thinks things are for the best.
CHAPTERS 29 - Conclusion
- Cunegonde is a total hag.
- Candide doesn’t really want to marry her, but once the Baron says that he can’t, Candide is determined.
- Candide does marry Cunegonde and everyone goes to live on some crappy farm.
- One day, Paquette and Brother Giroflee come to visit. Their lives suck, too – the money that Candide had given them didn’t help.
- Martin feels that man exists to deal with being bored or anxious.
- Everyone’s life is pretty lame. The Old Woman is bitchy, Cunegonde’s ugly, and Pangloss is still the same. They all decide that life is what it is, and the shit that happens makes a chain of events that is good. Or at least, the best of all worlds.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- Voltaire was a revolutionary thinker – he got into trouble for his art but really believed that the blind optimism with which the general public viewed life was bullshit.
- Think about the role that payback plays in this book – not just between people (the Grand Inquisitor beats Candide, but Candide kills him later) but in all areas (Candide and Cacambo get to go to Eldorado, but they lose most of the riches they accumulate there). Are people punished for their good times or is that just the up and downs of life?
- Candide’s hope of seeing Cunegonde keeps him going and yet he is let down in the end by Cunegonde’s loss of beauty. Is this fair? Does it matter what keeps us hopeful, or just that hope exists?
- Martin’s outlook on life closely resembles Voltaire’s.