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Candide grows up in the home of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia. He is tutored by Dr. Pangloss, the ever-optimistic philosopher, and he develops romantic feelings for Cunégonde, the Baron’s beautiful daughter.
Candide kisses Cunégonde after dinner one evening and is kicked out of the Baron’s home for doing so.
Candide naïvely toasts the Bulgar King and is conscripted into the Bulgar army. He leaves one morning for a walk alone, not realizing that he is breaking a rule. He is about to be executed for his crime when the Bulgar King pardons him.
During a battle between the Bulgars and Abars, Candide escapes. He travels to Holland where he begs for alms from a protestant minister. The minister questions his religious beliefs. Candide’s response displeases the minister and the minister’s wife dumps a bucket of human waste on Candide’s head.
A kind Anabaptist observes the incident and offers Candide clean clothes, a meal, a place to live, and an apprenticeship in his rug business. Candide happily accepts.
Candide runs into Pangloss, who is now infected with syphilis and begging on the streets. He learns that Cunégonde and her family were massacred by soldiers.
Candide and the Anabaptist see to it that Pangloss is cured.
Candide travels with Pangloss and the Anabaptist to Lisbon on business. On the way they are shipwrecked and the Anabaptist dies.
Candide and Pangloss make it safely to shore, only to experience a massive earthquake.
Candide is injured, but once he recovers, he and Pangloss aid others. They are invited to dinner and offend an Inquisitor with their philosophical views.
The Inquisitor orders Candide beaten and Pangloss executed at a public execution designed to prevent future earthquakes.
Candide is badly beaten, but is subsequently cared for by a kind old woman.
The Old Woman reunites Candide with Cunégonde, who he learns survived the attack on her family and is now a mistress and servant to two men.
Candide kills both of Cunégonde’s owners (one of which is the Inquisitor who ordered him beaten) and he flees with Cunégonde and the Old Woman to a country inn.
At the inn, Candide impresses a general with his military talent and is appointed to serve the Governor of Buenos Aires in suppressing an uprising.
Candide and the gang head to Buenos Aires.
Candide is pursued (for the murder of the Inquisitor) and forced to flee with his servant, Cacambo. He arrives in a Jesuit camp and finds that the Colonel in charge is Cunégonde’s brother, now the Baron since his father died.
Candide informs the Baron that Cunégonde is alive and well and he intends to marry her. The Baron disapproves, so Candide kills him.
Candide and Cacambo quickly escape into the woods. While resting in a meadow, Candide shoots two monkeys that seem to be menacing some girls.
Candide and Cacambo are tied up and threatened for having killed the monkeys that, it turns out, are the girls’ lovers. By Cacambo’s persuasive talking, they are able to escape.
Candide and Cacambo travel for several months and eventually reach El Dorado.
In El Dorado, Candide is greeted with warmth and generosity. He questions knowledgeable citizens. Although he concludes the country is perfect, he wishes to leave in order to search for Cunégonde.
Candide and Cacambo leave with the help of the King and a team of reputable scientists. They take with them remarkable riches.
Candide and Cacambo travel for a long time and lose the majority of their wealth. Nevertheless, they have more than enough to live on.
Candide sends Cacambo, who is not in threat of prosecution, to retrieve Cunégonde from the Governor of Buenos Aires. He plans to meet them in Venice.
Candide hires a companion, Martin, to accompany him on his journey.
Candide pays a man named Vanderdendur to take them to Italy, but Vanderdendur absconds on his ship with Candide’s riches.
Candide finds someone else to take him to Italy. On the way, he and Martin observe a battle between two ships and decide to detour to France.
One of the sheep he got in El Dorado miraculously floats by and Candide is able to reclaim it.
The ship arrives in Bordeaux; Candide and Martin travel to Paris.
In Paris, Candide is fawned over for his wealth.
He has dinner with a scholar and a Marchioness; they discuss literature.
An abbot tricks him into believing Cunégonde is in Paris. Candide falls for it and loses more money in the process.
Candide and Martin leave for England.
As they arrive, they witness an execution.
Candide is so disgusted with what he sees that before even disembarking, he insists on being taken directly to Venice.
Candide and Martin arrive in Venice. Candide’s search for Cunégonde and Cacambo is futile.
One night, Candide and Martin dine with six dethroned kings. Cacambo appears, dressed as a servant, and tells Candide to be ready to immediately depart for Constantinople, where Cunégonde is working as a servant.
Candide is surprised but immediately departs with Cacambo and Martin.
When they arrive in Turkey, Candide purchases Cacambo’s freedom.
He discovers that Pangloss and the Baron (the one he stabbed) are working in the galley. He is startled and pleased and he buys their freedom as well. Candide learns that both men survived their injuries, but after a series of unfortunate events, ended up prosecuted for crimes and assigned to the same chain gang.
Candide finds Cunégonde and the Old Woman and buys their freedom, too. Although once enamored with Cunégonde, he now finds her ugly, but as a matter of principle he agrees to marry her anyway.
The Baron once again refuses to let Candide marry his sister. Rather than stabbing him again, Candide just sends the Baron back to the galley.
Candide purchases a farm and moves in with all of his friends.
Along with the rest of the gang, he seeks advice from a dervish.
After an "honest Turk" tells them to stop talking and start working, Candide decides they should give it a shot.
He tells Pangloss that, instead of philosophizing, they should tend to their garden.