Voltaire’s Candide (1758)

Chapter 1:  Candide’s Expulsion from Westphalia (The Fall of Man)            

What is Voltaire’s take on the Church’s explanation for the problem of evil?
  • How does he account for the existence of evil in the world, both human evil and ‘natural evil’? 
  • What is his judgment of the philosophical belief in optimistic determinism? 
  • What is his vision of the natural state of man? Good or Evil?
  • What is his understanding of the relationship between cause and effect? 
  • Is human behavior determined? (If so, then are we morally responsible for our choices?)
  • What happens when social thinkers try to engineer a perfect human?

Chapter 2: The Recruiting Officer
Chapter 3: The Seven Years War

  • Does Voltaire believe that education and experience can condition us to avoid evil?

  • What Is Voltaire’s vision of the heroic adventure of warfare?

  • What do Anabaptists like Jaques believe? Why does he save Candide?

Chapter 4: Pangloss with the Pox and Jaques the Anabaptist
Chapter 5: The Death of Jaques and The Lisbon Earthquake

  • What is Voltaire’s implied point in Pangloss’s absurd justification of the horror of syphilis?

  • What happens to poor Jaques? What is Voltaire’s point? 

  • What moral reason can explain the terrible destruction of this natural catastrophe? 

  • Why does Voltaire include the perverse frenzy of the looters who take advantage of the destruction?

Chapter 6: The Inquisition’s Auto-da fe
Chapter 7: Reunion with Cunegonde

  • How did the Catholic Church explain the Lisbon Earthquake?
  • How does Pangloss justify the necessity of suffering? (What does Voltaire think of that? How does he deal with the problem of the suffering of innoncents?)
  • Through what agency is Candide saved once again?
  • What do you make of Voltaire’s choice to make Pangloss, Candide and Cunegonde indestructible?

Chapter 8: Cunegonde’s Story  
Chapter 9: Candide Commits Murder (Twice!)  
Chapter 10: Bound for the New World

  • What is Pangloss’ justification for brutality?
  • To what extent has Reason enabled the Inquisitor and the Jew to overcome their differences?
  • Why does Candide feel no remorse for his murders? 
  • How does Candide believe that the New World will be different from the Old?

Chapter 11: The Old Woman’s Adventures: The Wheel of Fortune
Chapter 12: The Old Woman’s Adventures: The Plague, Slavery, Cannibalism, Suicide

  • To what indignities was the young princess subjected? What is Voltaire’s point about fortune?

  • What is Voltaire’s explanation for these natural and human evils?

Chapter 13: The New World: Buenos Aires
Chapter 14: The Jesuit Utopia
Chapter 15: Candide Kills his Brother-In-Law
Chapter 16: The Biglugs: Man in the State of Nature

  • Describe the New World paradise that has been created in South America. How different is it from Europe?

  • Why is Candide rejected by his aristocratic brother-in-law? Why does Candide kill him?

  • What is Voltaire’s vision of man in the state of nature, the Biglugs?


Chapter 17:  Eldorado
Chapter 18: The Government of Eldorado

  • After showing the reality of society in the new World, Voltaire presents his vision of Utopia.
  • How do Candide and Cacambo find Utopia?
  • Describe the features of this ideal social arrangement: What religion? What economy? What government?
  • Why does Candide insist on leaving Eldorado? What do you make of this choice?

Chapter 19: Surinam
Chapter 20: Martin the Manichean
Chapter 21: More of Martin’s Philosophy

  • What conditions exist on the sugar plantation in the New World?

  • How has Candide redefined optimism?

  • How is Candide cheated of his fortune?

  • What do Manicheans believe? Is Martin a strict Manichean?

  • To what extent does Voltaire believe in the freedom of the will?

Chapter 22: France
Chapter 23: England

  • Describe Voltaire’s vision of French society: what happens to Candide and Martin?

  • How does he dispense with England?

Chapter 24: Venice and The Possibility of Human Happiness
Chapter 25: Lord Pococurante

Chapter 26: Dinner for the De-throned

  • What is the outcome of Martin and Candide’s bet on the possibility of human happiness?

  • How happy is Lord Pococurante, the man who has never known a moment’s grief?

  • After Candide has had dinner with the ex-kings, what does he think about the possible satisfactions of owning absolute political power?


Chapter 27: Constantinople Bound: the Galleys of the Turks
Chapter 28: The Adventures of Pangloss and the Baron
Chapter 29: Reunion with Cunegonde and the Old Woman

  • Think of Constantinople as the location of Voltaire’s final farm.

  • How did all our heroes wind up in this part of the world? Is Voltaire cynically creating an impossible coincidence, or is he suggesting the possibility of a measure of human happiness?

  • What has happened to Cunegonde? Does Candide still love her?

  • How does Pangloss re-define his belief in the principle of pre-established harmony?

Chapter 30: The Conclusion

  • Do our heroes live happily ever after?

  • What does the dervish tell Pangloss?

  • What does the mufti tell them before inviting them in to eat pistachio ice cream?

  • Describe the philosophies of Pangloss, Martin, and Candide at the end of the story.

  • What is Voltaire’s moral?