The individual characters


He is incredibly naive -- his name means guileless.

He is hopelessly innocent at the time when he is expelled from the castle.  Although the reader is well aware that the two men dressed in blue are recruiting officers, Candide had no such suspicions.  The soldiers check his height, need a statement of loyalty are for other for their king, the king of the Bulgares, from Candide, who unsuspecting, finds in their attentions proof of the truth in Pangloss's doctrine that all is for the best in the world.

Throughout the book Candide fights to retain his optimism in the face of many discouragements.  . 

He is kind, loyal, and yet, although very gentle, capable of violent action

The character of  the hero of the book: Candide

Candide lived in the “château” of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia. It was suspected he was the bastard son of the Baron's sister and a nobleman of the area, whom she could not marry, because his lineage was inferior to theirs. 

1)  His good nature
The name “Candide” tells us that he is innocent and straightforward, and these qualities could be seen in his looks Chapter 1 Page 55 –
Sa physionomie annonçait son âme. Il avait le jugement assez droit, avec l'esprit le plus simple; c'est  je crois, pour cette raison qu'on le nommait Candide.                                                                             

Chapter 4-The kindly Candide gives the beggar his last two florins, before he recognises him to be Doctor Pangloss.

He retains throughout the novel a profound goodness which retained the loyalty and affection of his companions and his servants.  Cacambo loved his master for his kindness. Chapter 14 Page 87 
(Cacambo)  aimait fort son maître, parce que son maître était un fort bon homme.

When he sees the brutal maltreatment of the slave in Surinam, he feels a deep sense of despair, saying that Optimism is madness. Chapter 19 Page 107:
Page 107 - c'est la rage de soutenir que tout est bien quand on est mal. Et il versait des larmes en regardant son nègre, et en pleurant, il entra dans Surinam.

His loyalty to his friends
He constantly goes to the help of his friends.

Chapter 24  When Candide hears the unhappy stories of Paquette and Brother Giroflée he gives them a little fortune each to give them a chance of happiness although. Martin predicts money will make them unhappier still.

He buys the freedom of Cacambo who is the slave of  Achmet III, the dethroned Grand Sultan.  Chapter 26
He buys the freedom of Pangloss and the Baron from their servitude on the galley-

Chapter 27
He pays the ransom of Cunégonde even though he no longer found her attractive and with her, ransom for the old woman, to free them both from the service of  the Hungarian Prince Ragotski.

He took all this group of friends to share his final refuge near Constantinople.

Outside his group of friends Candide was generous to the exiled poverty stricken King of Corsica.  Candide donates  a diamond worth100 times as much as each of the gifts of five ex-kings.

The irony that although very gentle he is capable of violent action
It is pure irony that such a gentle character killed two men and violently attacked a third.
(Chapter 9)   When Don Issachar found Candide with his mistress drew a dagger and Candide killed him in self defence.  When the Grand Inquisitor entered immediately afterwards, Candide realised that his fate was to be burning at the stake by the officers of the Inquisition and he ran him through.
Candide did the same with Cunégonde’s brother who had got into a great rage at the news that Candide, a commoner intended to marry his sister.  The Baron drew his word, which he carried as an officer in the Jesuit army, and slapped him across his face with the flat of his blade.  Candide had the swift reaction of a trained soldier.  Candide laments that he, the best man in the world, has killed three men including two priests. Chapter 15 Page 92: - je suis le meilleur homme du monde, et voilà déjà trois hommes que je tue; et dans ces trois il y a deux prêtres.

2)  His Optimism
During this time at the château, his tutor had been the philosopher Pangloss, who had imbued him with the theories of Optimistic Philosophy, which he accepted without reservation, partly because he was distracted by the beauty of the Baron’s daughter, whom he was too shy to make advances to.  He regarded Pangloss as the greatest philosopher in Westphalia and hence in the whole world.  (Chapter 1 Page 57).
… le plus grand philosophe de la province et par conséquent le monde

Candide is an optimist not only because of his education but also because his kind, trusting nature and because of the blissful existence at the castle, particularly when Cunégonde was near.  We note that, in a later chapter, Voltaire comments on the importance of personal happiness.  He says that it is easier to be an optimist after several glasses of wine and a good meal.

3) His naïve trust in the goodwill of others
Candide’s childhood in the “château” of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh had been very sheltered, which had left him very naïve.  He is all the more vulnerable because his naturally warm and trusting character makes him wish to believe in people. This leaves him constantly open to deception and exploitation.  
a)  The recruiting officers. Chapter two
b)  The Calvinist minister who preaches charity chapter three 
c)  The Dutch merchant Vanderdendur who tricked him and robbed him of his flock of richly laden llamas.
d)  The fraudsters in Paris including the priest from Périgord who took a lot of money from him by deceiving him into believing he was meeting Cunégonde.
e)  The Marchioness in Paris who flattered him with her rank and her attentions but who seduced him for his money.

His naivety is often humorous He is delighted how kindly fortune can be, when he meets the Baron in South America and says: Chapter 14 page 90 
«Quoi! serait-ce vous, mon révérend père? vous, le frère de la belle Cunégonde! vous, qui fûtes tué par les Bulgares! vous, le fils de monsieur le baron! vous, jésuite au Paraguai! Il faut avouer que ce monde est une étrange chose. O Pangloss! Pangloss! que vous seriez aise si vous n'aviez pas été pendu!»

4) His moments of doubt
On the strength of his education and his temperament Candide is able to cling to some confidence and hope in life.  But there are moments of discouragement and despair.
1) Candide first doubts come when Pangloss gives him the news that Cunégonde was killed with her family by the Bulgare soldiers.  Now his optimism wavers for the first time.
Page 63 - Cunégonde est morte Ah meilleur des mondes, ou êtes-vous.

2)After the earthquake and the auto-da-fé, Candide shocked and bleeding, has his further doubts Chapter 6 Page 69:
 - Si c'est ici le meilleur des mondes possibles que sont donc les autres?

 2) The black slave in Surinam arouses a deep cry of despair from Candide.  In the phrase quoted above he describes Optimism as madness. Page 107

3 ) After being robbed of his last two llamas, by the pirate Vanderdendur he experiences one of his moments of blackest despair.  Chapter 19 page 109 
Page 109- La méchanceté des hommes se présentait à son esprit dans toute sa laideur, il ne se nourrissait que d'idées tristes.

4) In chapter 24 Candide falls into dark melancholy when he is disappointed not to find Cunégonde waiting for him with in Venice.  He believes that Martin’s permanent pessimism is justified. Chapter 24 Page 126:
Que vous avez raison, mon cher Martin! Tout n'est qu'illusion et calamité.»

Candide is resilient
However, Candide is resilient and recovers from these bad times.
1)  When the Anabaptist shows him kindness, Candide’s faith in human nature is revived, and he can put aside the uncharitable behaviour of the Dutch minister and his wife.  Chapter 4 Page 62 
Page 62 - Candide, se prosternant presque devant lui s'écriait; Maître Pangloss me l'avait bien dit que tout est au mieux dans ce monde car je suis infiniment plus touché de votre extrême générosité que de la dureté de ce monsieur à manteau noir, et de madame son épouse.

2) On fleeing from Portugal he pins his faith on finding lands in another part of the world which will complete the missing links in the picture to show that this is the best of all possible worlds.  Chapter 10 Page 77
Nous allons dans un autre univers, disait Candide; c'est dans celui-là, sans doute, que tout est bien. Car il faut avouer qu'on pourrait gémir un peu de ce qui se passe dans le notre en physique et en morale.

3) His love for Cunégonde had always been one of the main elements of his hope and his optimism and it remains so throughout his worst ordeals.  He had knowhn incredible good fortune in Eldorado leaving with 100 llamas, loaded with precious jewels.  But his luck quickly evaporates when 98 of the llamas die.  He tells Cacambo- Chapter 19 Page 106 - Mon ami, vous voyez comme les richesses de ce  monde sont périssables; il n'y a rien de solide que la vertu et le bonheur de revoir mademoiselle Cunégonde.

After seeing the despair of six dethroned kings in Venice but with confident expectations of being reunited with Cunégonde in Constantinople he says: Chapter 27 Page 138/9 
 «Voilà pourtant six rois détrônés avec qui nous avons soupé! et encore dans ces six rois il y en a un à qui  j'ai fait l'aumône. Peut-être y a-t-il beaucoup d'autres princes plus infortunés. Pour moi, je n'ai perdu que cent moutons, et je vole dans les bras de Cunégonde.

Candide’s role in the story

Candide’ progress through the book is a voyage of discovery, in the course of which the Optimistic ideas which he had learnt from Pangloss are put to the test as in episode after episode he is confronted by the reality of evil and suffering in the world. 

In the first half of the book the emphasis is above all on the human misfortunes which are caused by nature, or human society with its customs and institutions.

Candide's misfortunes start when he is expelled from his peaceful life at the castle of the Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh and he is tricked into enlisting in the German army
1)  He experiences the horrors of war
2) In Holland he encounters that and fanaticism of the Dutch pastor but  he is reassured by the goodness of Jacques
3)  He meets Pangloss again and sees the agony of his illness but gets news of Cunégonde
4)  When takes them to Lisbon they meet natural catastrophes

  1. The storm at sea in which Jacques drowns.
  2. The Lisbon Earthquake

5) They are condemned by the Holy Inquisition and subjected to an auto-da-fé.
6)  On being reunited with Cunégonde in Lisbon, he meets sexual immorality. 
7)  An unfortunate encounter with human dishonesty when a Friar steals Cunégonde’s money
8)  On their voyage to South America the old woman tells of even greater evils

  1. Piracy
  2. The most savage and prolonged rape
  3. Total civil war raging in Morocco
  4. Horrors of the plague
  5. Starvation during a military siege.
  6. Deliberate mutilation

9)  He experiences the abuse of power by the Governor on their arrival in Buenos Aires
10) In Paraguay he sees the paternalistic oppression of the native population by the Jesuits
11) In the land of the cannibals he sees another example of human vice involving two girls and two monkeys
12) He has an almost fatal confrontation with cannibalism

The account of the grim reality of the real world is broken, in the middle of the book when Voltaire takes his characters into a world of pure fantasy in the land of  Eldorado.

(In the second half of the book there is perhaps more emphasis on moral evil: greed, vice and human weaknesses.)

13) The picture of the heartless inhumanity of slavery marks the return to reality on leaving Eldorado. 
14)  In Surinam he is the victim of the greed and dishonesty of the Dutch ship-owner 
15)  He suffers indifference of the law
16) On the voyage back to Europe there is a sea battle, ending with the death of pirates but also innocent passengers.
17) Back in Europe they go to Paris there he sees

  1. Gambling
  2. Carping theatrical critics
  3. Sexual immorality
  4. Cheating and stealing.

18) Sailing from France to England he sees the execution of Admiral Byng, unjustly convicted.
19) Returning to Europe he goes to Venice looking for Cunégonde and learns of

  1. The Degradation of prostitution
  2. The misery of monastic life
  3. The negativism of an Epicurean lifestyle

20) In Venice still he sees the downfall of the once powerful and famous, meeting six deposed kings.
21)  Cacambo’s tale is of further hardships, shared with Cunégonde and the old woman – once again subject to piracy and slavery
21) On the galley to Constantinople the Baron and Pangloss give glimpses of human lust in their stories.
22) On meeting Cunégonde again Candide feels bitter disappointment as his romantic dreams, which had sustained him for so long are shattered.
23)  In Turkey he sees the extreme dangers of choosing a public or political career

Candide learns and matures

Finally Candide outgrows his Optimist education and is a practical realist
(See the notes “What is Candide’s final philosophy of life?)
His conclusion

  1. To avoid dogmas and theorising
  2. To avoid politics and public life.
  3. To work hard at their simple tasks to provide for their needs and banish boredom

The final slogan that he chooses for their lives is “Cultivons notre jardin”