he driving idea of Candide comes from the titled character, a young man of some privilege who lives in a nice castle and has food, entertainment, a girl he’s sweet on, everything he could hope for. More in amusement than anything else, he chats with the court’s learned philosopher. Doctor Pangloss, with smug certainty, denotes that everything is here for a reason, and hence (by the chain of logic) this reality must represent The Best of All Possible Worlds. Hence the alternate title to the book, Optimism. And hence the coming irony.
Of course, almost immediately, Pangloss has his way with a chambermaid. Observed by Cunegonde, daughter of the Baron and sweetheart of Candide, she decides this is normal behavior and jump’s Candide’s bones. Even though no fault of his own, this interaction sees Candide booted out of the castle (literally, and specifically in the ass). But that’s all right – shortly after this, an army destroys the castle, rapes and kills everyone, and nothing is left. Alone, Candide wanders the earth.
And everything goes wrong, even in this best of all possible worlds.
From numerous rapes, multiple whippings, the removal of half a buttocks with a sabre, all the way to the destruction of Lisbon by earthquake and the following tidal wave, one thinks that the world could, possibly, be a bit better. But Candide remains locked in his convictions of Dr. Pangloss’s words (even though the good doctor himself had his face rot away through venereal disease (it seems the chambermaid was not as chaste as she appeared), lost an eye, a nose and all his teeth, only to eventually be hung.
And so the horrors continue as they characters travel (and are swindled) across the globe. Yet in the end, Candide does learn something of a life lesson, the thought of how one should be in this world.
And if you think I’m going to spoil it, nope. Hey, it’s an easy read and a fun one. Get the book yourself!
I’m optimistic that you will.