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Character Analysis

Candide is our novel’s main man. He is innocent, idealistic, and faithful to an extreme degree. Incredibly gullible, he blindly accepts Dr. Pangloss’s overly optimistic worldview as a young man, and continues to cling to it through a barrage of earthquakes, executions, hangings, floggings, gauntlets, rapes, disembowelments, and poor theatrical productions. Candide’s idealistic dedication to Cunégonde drives him to extremes, yet when they are finally reunited, she is unable to live up to his high expectations.

Candide is very dependent and essentially unable to think for himself. He doesn’t completely discard Pangloss’s philosophy until he adopts another one – the farmer’s belief in work as a cure-all. Rather than relying on one particular philosophy, Candide depends on philosophy as a crutch to avoid thinking for himself. Throughout the novel, Candide surrounds himself with quick thinking, opinionated individuals. It is not by his own wits, but by the decisions of Cacambo, Martin, and the Old Woman that Candide survives to the end of the novel.

Nevertheless, despite his weaknesses, Candide is unflinchingly principled and kind. Unfortunately that his naiveté leads him to expect honesty and generosity in a world that clearly lacks both. While we laugh at him for his ridiculous nature, it’s also endearing. Like it or not, we readers have a soft spot for Candide.

Which, of course, Voltaire takes scathing advantage of. Candide ends up a symbolic critique of innocence and blind faith. Voltaire uses his character to comment satirically on his times – times when, in his view, everyone ran around philosophizing pedantically, which was not only useless, but completely annoying.

To better make this point, the author ensures that Candide misunderstands the philosophy he tries to promote. "Optimism" as a philosophy requires followers to look at the world in totality. However, Candide and Pangloss both try to use Optimism to justify the miseries of their personal lives. But, it just doesn’t work like that.

Candide Timeline
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