Study Guide

Candide Love

By Voltaire

Love

She met Candide on reaching the castle and blushed; Candide blushed also; she wished him good morrow in a faltering tone, and Candide spoke to her without knowing what he said. The next day after dinner, as they went from table, Cunégonde and Candide found themselves behind a screen; Cunégonde let fall her handkerchief, Candide picked it up, she took him innocently by the hand, the youth as innocently kissed the young lady's hand with particular vivacity, sensibility, and grace; their lips met, their eyes sparkled, their knees trembled, their hands strayed. Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh passed near the screen and beholding this cause and effect chased Candide from the castle with great kicks on the backside; Cunégonde fainted away; she was boxed on the ears by the Baroness, as soon as she came to herself; and all was consternation in this most magnificent and most agreeable of all possible castles. (1.8)

Candide’s expulsion is made absurd by the minor nature of his offense.

"Love you not deeply?"

"Oh yes," answered he; "I deeply love Miss Cunégonde."

"No," said one of the gentlemen, "we ask you if you do not deeply love the King of the Bulgarians?"

"Not at all," said he; "for I have never seen him." (2.10)

Candide’s love for Cunégonde is the product of his innocence.

"Cunégonde is dead! Ah, best of worlds, where art thou? But of what illness did she die? Was it not for grief, upon seeing her father kick me out of his magnificent castle?" (4.9)

Candide harbors absurdly romantic notions about Cunégonde, again betraying his youth and idealism.

"Alas!" said the other, "it was love; love, the comfort of the human species, the preserver of the universe, the soul of all sensible beings, love, tender love."

"Alas!" said Candide, "I know this love, that sovereign of hearts, that soul of our souls; yet it never cost me more than a kiss and twenty kicks on the backside. How could this beautiful cause produce in you an effect so abominable?" (4.12)

Pangloss and Candide equate love with salvation.

"Yet again!" said Cunégonde, "now there is no mercy for us, we are excommunicated, our last hour has come. How could you do it? You, naturally so gentle, to slay a Jew and a prelate in two minutes!"

"My beautiful young lady," responded Candide, "when one is a lover, jealous and whipped by the Inquisition, one stops at nothing." (9.8-9)

Candide, blinded by love, explains that he will stop at no ends to defend his love for Cunégonde.

"I was affianced to the most excellent Prince of Massa Carara. Such a prince! as handsome as myself, sweet-tempered, agreeable, brilliantly witty, and sparkling with love. I loved him as one loves for the first time—with idolatry, with transport […]. " (11.2)

The Old Woman characterizes first love as blinding and overwhelming. This is in accord with Candide’s experience of love.

"I waxed old in misery and disgrace, having only one-half of my posteriors, and always remembering I was a Pope's daughter. A hundred times I was upon the point of killing myself; but still I loved life. This ridiculous foible is perhaps one of our most fatal characteristics; for is there anything more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden which one can always throw down? to detest existence and yet to cling to one's existence? in brief, to caress the serpent which devours us, till he has eaten our very heart?" (12.16)

The Old Woman’s love of life exemplifies a fundamental aspect of human nature. Yet, interestingly, she is the only character to display such an emotion.

"Oh! my dear Cunégonde! must I leave you just at a time when the Governor was going to sanction our nuptials? Cunégonde, brought to such a distance what will become of you?" (14.4)

Candide’s love for Cunégonde blinds him to the reality of the Governor’s feelings toward her.

"We shall see that, thou scoundrel!" said the Jesuit Baron de Thunder-ten-Tronckh, and that instant struck him across the face with the flat of his sword. Candide in an instant drew his rapier, and plunged it up to the hilt in the Jesuit's belly; but in pulling it out reeking hot, he burst into tears.

"Good God!" said he, "I have killed my old master, my friend, my brother-in-law! I am the best-natured creature in the world, and yet I have already killed three men, and of these three two were priests." (15.9-10)

Blinded by his desire to marry Cunégonde, Candide is unable to think when the Baron objects to their marriage.

"I own, my friend, once more that the castle where I was born is nothing in comparison with this; but, after all, Miss Cunégonde is not here, and you have, without doubt, some mistress in Europe. If we abide here we shall only be upon a footing with the rest, whereas, if we return to our old world, only with twelve sheep laden with the pebbles of El Dorado, we shall be richer than all the kings in Europe. We shall have no more Inquisitors to fear, and we may easily recover Miss Cunégonde." (18.31)

Candide’s love for Cunégonde is so intense that he values her over the utopian world of El Dorado.

Our travelers spent the first day very agreeably. They were delighted with possessing more treasure than all Asia, Europe, and Africa could scrape together. Candide, in his raptures, cut Cunégonde's name on the trees. The second day two of their sheep plunged into a morass, where they and their burdens were lost; two more died of fatigue a few days after; seven or eight perished with hunger in a desert; and others subsequently fell down precipices. At length, after traveling a hundred days, only two sheep remained. Said Candide to Cacambo:

"My friend, you see how perishable are the riches of this world; there is nothing solid but virtue, and the happiness of seeing Cunégonde once more." (19.1-2)

Candide’s love for Cunégonde drives him to childish and hasty actions.

Candide, however, had one great advantage over Martin, in that he always hoped to see Miss Cunégonde; whereas Martin had nothing at all to hope. (20.2)

Candide’s love for Cunégonde motivates him in a unique and powerful way.

This charming, this unhoped-for letter transported Candide with an inexpressible joy, and the illness of his dear Cunégonde overwhelmed him with grief. Divided between those two passions, he took his gold and his diamonds and hurried away, with Martin, to the hotel where Miss Cunégonde was lodged. He entered her room trembling, his heart palpitating, his voice sobbing; he wished to open the curtains of the bed, and asked for a light. (22.74)

Candide is so overwhelmed at the prospect of seeing Cunégonde that he does not realize he is being tricked.

"What!" said he to Martin, "I have had time to voyage from Surinam to Bordeaux, to go from Bordeaux to Paris, from Paris to Dieppe, from Dieppe to Portsmouth, to coast along Portugal and Spain, to cross the whole Mediterranean, to spend some months, and yet the beautiful Cunégonde has not arrived! Instead of her I have only met a Parisian wench and a Perigordian Abbé. Cunégonde is dead without doubt, and there is nothing for me but to die. Alas! how much better it would have been for me to have remained in the paradise of El Dorado than to come back to this cursed Europe! You are in the right, my dear Martin: all is misery and illusion." (24.2)

Because Candide places all of his hope and livelihood in Cunégonde, his life feels entirely meaningless without her. This is the risk those in love are forced to take in Candide.

"Well," said he, "what news of Cunégonde? Is she still a prodigy of beauty? Does she love me still? How is she? Thou hast doubtless bought her a palace at Constantinople?"

"My dear master," answered Cacambo, "Cunégonde washes dishes on the banks of the Propontis, in the service of a prince, who has very few dishes to wash; she is a slave in the family of an ancient sovereign named Ragotsky to whom the Grand Turk allows three crowns a day in his exile. But what is worse still is, that she has lost her beauty and has become horribly ugly." (27.7)

All of Candide’s expectations about Cunégonde are shattered, just as his view of the world as "all for the best" is similarly destroyed.

At the bottom of his heart Candide had no wish to marry Cunégonde. But the extreme impertinence of the Baron determined him to conclude the match, and Cunégonde pressed him so strongly that he could not go from his word. (30.1)

Finally within reach of her, Candide is no longer infatuated with Cunégonde. She is unable to meet his expectations.

It is natural to imagine that after so many disasters Candide married, and living with the philosopher Pangloss, the philosopher Martin, the prudent Cacambo, and the old woman, having besides brought so many diamonds from the country of the ancient Incas, must have led a very happy life. But he was so much imposed upon by the Jews that he had nothing left except his small farm; his wife became more ugly every day, more peevish and unsupportable; the old woman was infirm and even more fretful than Cunégonde […]. (30.2)

Candide, having finally achieved his lifelong goal, remains unfulfilled.