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Gardens and Gardening

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Gardens appear in several important passages in Candide. First, Candide’s uncle banishes him from the family’s country home and garden after he finds Candide kissing Cunégonde. This expulsion from the garden connotes and parodies the Garden of Eden story. In El Dorado, Candide encounters an incredible natural landscape that surpasses the beauty of the Baron’s home. Unfortunately, this setting is fantastical and transitory. Finally, at the end of the novel, Candide purchases a farm and dedicates himself to working and cultivating a garden. In doing so, Candide swaps the complacency that resulted from his previous philosophizing for an active engagement in his surroundings. The shift from passivity and philosophizing to activity and work seems to provide some relief to Candide and his friends. However, the ultimate symbolism of Candide’s retreat to gardening is unclear. One possible interpretation is that it reflects a change of character and a new start for Candide. Finally, in rejecting Pangloss’s philosophy and the philosopher’s way of life, Candide thinks for himself and builds something of his own. An alternative, however, is that Candide’s retreat to gardening is not an act of starting anew, but simply a replacement of the farmer’s philosophy for Pangloss’s. Although it may reveal an inclination to greater engagement in the world, the cultivation of a garden may also be seen as an escape or refuge from engagement in the greater world of suffering. In the context of the Garden of Eden analogy, Candide’s cultivation of a garden might also be understood as a futile attempt to restore the innocence and faith that he lost through his misfortunes and suffering.

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