Study Guide

Candide Principles

By Voltaire

Principles

Candide, yet more moved with compassion than with horror, gave to this shocking beggar the two florins which he had received from the honest Anabaptist James. (4.1)

Candide is a compassionate character.

These last words determined Candide; he went and flung himself at the feet of the charitable Anabaptist James, and gave him so touching a picture of the state to which his friend was reduced, that the good man did not scruple to take Dr. Pangloss into his house, and had him cured at his expense. (4.20)

The compassionate James sees to it that Pangloss is cured.

Half dead of that inconceivable anguish which the rolling of a ship produces, one-half of the passengers were not even sensible of the danger. The other half shrieked and prayed. The sheets were rent, the masts broken, the vessel gaped. Work who would, no one heard, no one commanded. The Anabaptist being upon deck bore a hand; when a brutish sailor struck him roughly and laid him sprawling; but with the violence of the blow he himself tumbled head foremost overboard, and stuck upon a piece of the broken mast. Honest James ran to his assistance, hauled him up, and from the effort he made was precipitated into the sea in sight of the sailor, who left him to perish, without deigning to look at him. Candide drew near and saw his benefactor, who rose above the water one moment and was then swallowed up for ever. He was just going to jump after him, but was prevented by the philosopher Pangloss, who demonstrated to him that the Bay of Lisbon had been made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned. While he was proving this à priori, the ship foundered; all perished except Pangloss, Candide, and that brutal sailor who had drowned the good Anabaptist. The villain swam safely to the shore, while Pangloss and Candide were borne thither upon a plank. (5.1)

James acts out of charity, but is left to drown by the man he saves, as well as by Candide and Pangloss. Virtue, it seems, is a useless attribute in Candide.

"This Jew was much attached to my person, but could not triumph over it; I resisted him better than the Bulgarian soldier. A modest woman may be ravished once, but her virtue is strengthened by it. In order to render me more tractable, he brought me to this country house. Hitherto I had imagined that nothing could equal the beauty of Thunder-ten-Tronckh Castle; but I found I was mistaken." (8.6)

Cunégonde’s virtue is closely linked to her sexual purity.

"Alas!" said Candide, "dear Pangloss has often demonstrated to me that the goods of this world are common to all men, and that each has an equal right to them. But according to these principles the Grey Friar ought to have left us enough to carry us through our journey. Have you nothing at all left, my dear Cunégonde?" (10.1)

Despite the questionability of some of his own behavior, Candide is appalled that the friar does not abide by religious principles.

"I need not tell you how great a hardship it was for a young princess and her mother to be made slaves and carried to Morocco. You may easily imagine all we had to suffer on board the pirate vessel. My mother was still very handsome; our maids of honor, and even our waiting women, had more charms than are to be found in all Africa. As for myself, I was ravishing, was exquisite, grace itself, and I was a virgin! I did not remain so long; this flower, which had been reserved for the handsome Prince of Massa Carara, was plucked by the corsair captain. He was an abominable N****, and yet believed that he did me a great deal of honor. Certainly the Princess of Palestrina and myself must have been very strong to go through all that we experienced until our arrival at Morocco. But let us pass on; these are such common things as not to be worth mentioning." (11.4)

The Old Woman was raped by a man who felt he was doing her an honor. In such a way, even virtue has been perverted in the world of Candide.

"Gentlemen," said Cacambo, "you reckon you are to-day going to feast upon a Jesuit. It is all very well, nothing is more unjust than thus to treat your enemies. Indeed, the law of nature teaches us to kill our neighbor, and such is the practice all over the world. If we do not accustom ourselves to eating them, it is because we have better fare. But you have not the same resources as we; certainly it is much better to devour your enemies than to resign to the crows and rooks the fruits of your victory. But, gentlemen, surely you would not choose to eat your friends. You believe that you are going to spit a Jesuit, and he is your defender. It is the enemy of your enemies that you are going to roast. As for myself, I was born in your country; this gentleman is my master, and, far from being a Jesuit, he has just killed one, whose spoils he wears; and thence comes your mistake. To convince you of the truth of what I say, take his habit and carry it to the first barrier of the Jesuit kingdom, and inform yourselves whether my master did not kill a Jesuit officer. It will not take you long, and you can always eat us if you find that I have lied to you. But I have told you the truth. You are too well acquainted with the principles of public law, humanity, and justice not to pardon us." (16.20)

Cacambo successfully appeals to the principles of humanity and justice to save himself and Candide.

"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." (19.2)

Candide elevates virtue and his love for Cunégonde above all else.

"You are in truth very simple," said Martin to him, "if you imagine that a mongrel valet, who has five or six millions in his pocket, will go to the other end of the world to seek your mistress and bring her to you to Venice. If he finds her, he will keep her to himself; if he does not find her he will get another. I advise you to forget your valet Cacambo and your mistress Cunégonde." (24.4)

Martin questions Cacambo’s virtue. This is interesting, as Cacambo is arguably one of the more virtuous characters in the text.

Candide, distracted between joy and grief, delighted at seeing his faithful agent again, astonished at finding him a slave, filled with the fresh hope of recovering his mistress, his heart palpitating, his understanding confused, sat down to table with Martin, who saw all these scenes quite unconcerned, and with six strangers who had come to spend the Carnival at Venice. (26.8)

Cacambo proves his faithfulness and honesty.

"Well, handsome or ugly," replied Candide, "I am a man of honor, and it is my duty to love her still. But how came she to be reduced to so abject a state with the five or six millions that you took to her?" (27.9)

Candide says he will marry Cunégonde as a matter of principle, even though his love for her has faded.

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)

Candide is determined to marry Cunégonde because he believes he’s made a promise to her. Just as he allows philosophy to get in the way of practicality, he allows principle to obstruct his actual happiness.