MAIN IDEAS IN CANDIDE
I. Criticism of Philosophical Systems
A. Leibnitzian Optimism— Leibnitz (1646-1716) was a respected German
philosopher whose theory based on optimism was popularized by some
18th century thinkers in simplistic formulas such as “all is for the best in
this best of all possible worlds.”
1. Voltaire attacks simplistic versions, but not all of Leibnitz’s ideas, as
seen through Pangloss.
2. He rejects fatalism or that all events are predetermined.
3. He does not think that every “cause” leads to an appropriate
“effect” or that this cause has to be the best possible cause since
undoubtedly it reflects God's will.
4. He does not accept things as they are like Pangloss teaches.
5. Voltaire teaches that a spirit of struggle and reform are needed to
6. Voltaire is a “deist;” He believed that God created the world, but
God does not get involved in daily affairs of the world.
7. By the end of the book Candide shares Voltaire’s ideas on God and
thinks that “we must cultivate our own garden.”
B. Manicheanism Pessimism— a system that originated with Mani (Persian
prophet, about A.D. 250), whose belief was that good and evil rule the
universe and are in conflict.
1. The character of Martin, the pessimist, takes this doctrine to the
2. Martin maintains that God has abandoned earth, but not the
universe, to the forces of evil (Satan and darkness)—evil is real,
not an illusion.
3. Voltaire has a profound distrust for any doctrine. He rejects both
Leibnitzian Optimism and Manichean Pessimism.
C. Empiricism— Voltaire believes that all knowledge comes from sense
experience (an approach to knowledge that derived from John Locke’s
[1632-1704] “blank slate.”)
1. Voltaire thinks a statement, idea, or hypothesis is valid only if it is
related to something physical and can be known and verified
through human senses.
2. Cacambo helps Candide to gradually pay attention to practical
matters and test all concepts and statements, whether those of
optimism or pessimism, by experience.
II. Social Criticism
A. Voltaire attacks all aspects of society.
B. He believes that human nature has been negatively effected by civil
institutions. For example, Candide finds liars, cheats, pimps, etc. in Paris.
C. The clergy, from Pope to priest, is corrupt, fanatical, oppressive, greedy,
and hungry for power.
D. The medical profession practices fraud and quackery.
E. The law courts and police are of dubious integrity.
F. Class distinctions are based more on snobbery than on merit.
G. European prosperity rests on the misery of the people and the slave trade.
H. The superficial glory of war is contrasted with its horrible reality.
A. Voltaire creates a number of “perfect places” in the book but all have
B. Finally, at the end of the book, Candide creates his own utopia, a
farming/gardening community where all of Voltaire’s values are
represented including hard work, open-mindedness, honesty,
progressivism, and a community effort where each individual participates
according to his or her own talents and strengths.
CANDIDE READING GUIDE
1. In whose castle does Candide live?
2. Under what circumstances was Candide born?
3. Who is Cunegonde and how old is she?
4. “It is proved,” [Pangloss] used to say, “that things cannot be other than they are,
for since ____________________ was made for a ____________________, it
follows that ____________________ is made for the ____________________.”
Use Pangloss' optimistic philosophy to answer questions 5-7.
5. Why do we have spectacles?
6. Why do we have breeches?
7. Why is the baron the greatest baron in the province?
8. What is meant by “experimental physics” and how does it get Candide literally
kicked out of the castle?
9. Name at two techniques that the uniformed men use to get Candide to join the
10. How was Candide punished when he tried to go for a walk without permission?
What point do you think Voltaire is trying to make about natural rights?
11. Voltaire give a scathing description of the “glories” of war on pages 25-26. Name
at least two of them.
12. Would the orator on pages 26-27 be inclined to agree with Pangloss’
13. How does Pangloss’ philosophy backfire on him and on Cunegonde?
14. Voltaire believed that men make their own fates. They are not controlled by
some all-powerful God. How does Voltaire make this clear when James states
his opposition to Pangloss' philosophy?
15. According to Pangloss, for what purpose was the Lisbon harbor formed?
16. What was the purpose of burning people at the stake in Lisbon?
17. On what charges were Pangloss and Candide arrested?
18. To whom did the old woman take Candide?
19. What relationship do Cunegonde, Don Issachar, and the Grand Inquisitor have?
20. What does Candide do with the Inquisitor when the Inquisitor walks in on
Candide and Cunegonde while they are “on the couch.”
21. Now that Pangloss is dead, who becomes the new advisor to Candide and
22. How does Voltaire show the hypocrisy of the clergy on page 47?
23. Where does Candide go to find the “best of all possible worlds?”
24. Why did Voltaire choose Urban X to be the old woman's father when he could
have chosen any pope?
25. Name two misfortunes that befell the old woman when she was with the
26. According to the Catholic Church, despair is a mortal sin because it is the
opposite of hope which is in turn based on faith. Therefore, if a person lives his
or her life in despair, he/she has no faith in God. Suicide is also a mortal sin
because it violates the fifth commandment, "Thou shall not kill." All through
Candide, Voltaire criticizes religion. Does the first paragraph on page 49 indicate
a continuation of this theme, a change in theme, or a partial change?
27. For what purpose does Voltaire think religion can be used?
28. Pangloss was always very optimistic, but the old woman is more practical. How
does she advise Candide to deal with the murder he has committed?
29. Cacambo recommends to Candide that they go to the Jesuits. According to
Cacambo, how might Candide be useful to them?
30. From Cacambo's description, the Jesuit community sounds like Utopia—it is vast
and orderly. Find something in Cacambo's description that shows that this is not
really Utopia (and hence, another criticism of the Church).
31. What is the true identity of the Reverend Father?
32. Why does the Reverend Father become so angry at Candide after treaty him like
33. By having Candide kill the Reverend Father, Voltaire shows that men are
sometimes compelled to do evil things. How does this further refute Pangloss's
34. Does the incident involving the monkeys show that man is evolving (ape to man)
or that man is devolving (man to ape)?
35. How are pages 71-72 another stab at religion?
36. How does Voltaire’s description of the Orellians compare to Thomas Hobbes'
description of the “state of nature?”
37. Read Chapters XVII and XVIII and give three examples of how Eldorado really is
Utopia in Voltaire's mind.
38. Cite the page and paragraph in Chapter XVII in which Candide finally admits that
Pangloss was wrong.
39. On which figure in the Protestant Reformation is page 80 based?
40. Why does Candide leave Eldorado?
41. How do pages 85-86 illustrate the hypocrisy of Christianity?
42. How do the incidents involving the Dutch captain and the judge refute Pangloss'
43. How does Martin's philosophy differ from Pangloss' philosophy?
44. What criticism does Martin make of Pangloss' philosophy on pages 91-92?
45. According to Martin, for what purpose was the earth formed?
46. Explain the humor involving the doctors on page 97.
47. How do the incidents described on pages 105-107 illustrate that Candide is very
naïve and still has faith in Pangloss' philosophy?
48. Based on the events in Chapter XXIII, does Voltaire agree with Hobbes or
Locke? Give evidence
49. Does Voltaire support the British system of government? Give evidence.
50. Name three things that happened to Paquette after she left Westphalia.
51. How do Paquette's and Giroflée lives compare to Pangloss' philosophy?Which
philosophy does Paquette's life best reflect, Pangloss' or Martin's? Give
52. How does Voltaire's treatment of Milton and the other classics relate to the
skepticism of the time?
53. According to divine right theory, kings are ordained by God, a theory that Voltaire
does not support. The purpose of Chapter XXVI, therefore, is to demonstrate
that even the worst fates can befall kings. Knowing this, explain why the servant
want the kings to leave the inn so quickly.
54. What does Cunegonde do for a living in Constantinople?
55. Who does Candide discover on the Levantine ship?
56. “I still hold my original views,” replied Pangloss, “because, after all, for I am still a
philosopher. It would not be proper for me to ____________________, since
____________________ cannot be ____________________; and besides, the
____________________, together with the plenum and subtle matter, is the
most beautiful thing in the world.”
57. What does the old woman suggest Candide buy while they wait for their fortunes
to take a turn for the better?
58. After the baron again refuses to allow Candide to marry his sister, what does
Candide do with him?
59. Searching for the meaning of life, Candide and his friends consult a famous
dervish. What religious concept does the dervish reflect?
60. Do Pangloss and Martin change their opinions by then end of the book?