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Themes

Power and status derived from lineage are portrayed as corrupting and ultimately meaningless in Candide. Individuals in positions of authority frequently abuse their power through the possession and maltreatment of slaves and servants. Power and status are, above all, transient. Although the Baron, for example, clings to his ancestral status, he is employed in a chain gang. The protagonist even encounters six dethroned kings all in one night. Throughout the progression of the novel, the main characters each experience multiple changes of fortune.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. In what ways is social status important in Candide? In what ways is it unimportant? To whom does is matter the most and to whom does it matter the least?
  2. What makes a person socially powerful in Candide?
  3. Is social status defined by wealth?
  4. Overall, what commentary does Voltaire seem to make about society?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The ups and downs of power in Candide suggest that social status is purely transitory and ultimately useless to the pursuit of happiness.

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