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El Dorado Symbol Analysis

El Dorado Symbol Icon
El Dorado represents the kind of world imagined by utopian philosophers. El Dorado might be the “best of all possible worlds,” but at the same time, it is made to seem unbelievable. Even more importantly, El Dorado is inhuman. As we see throughout Candide, and learn explicitly by the end, “man is not born to be idle,” and the happiness of the El Doradans is based on their idleness: they always stay put. El Dorado symbolizes the impossibility of utopian dreams. The novel suggests that the same desires which cause Candide and Cacambo to leave El Dorado would make any utopian society impossible—mankind is too restless.

El Dorado Quotes in Candide

The Candide quotes below all refer to the symbol of El Dorado. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Optimism and Disillusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Candide published in 1991.
Chapter 18 Quotes

“...but being surrounded by inaccessible rocks and precipices, we have hitherto been sheltered from the rapaciousness of European nations, who have an inconceivable passion for the pebbles and dirt of our land, for the sake of which they would murder us to the last man.”

Related Characters: The Old Man of El Dorado (speaker)
Related Symbols: El Dorado
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Candide and Cacambo come to the land of El Dorado, where they meet an elderly man who tells them about his home. In El Dorado, he explains, there is gold everywhere. Luckily, El Dorado is located in a remote area far from European explorers, who are hungry for the gold, which the people of El Dorado treat like mere rock or soil.

The point of the passage seems to be that one man's trash is another man's treasure: the Europeans crave gold (a completely useless, strictly ornamental thing) while the people of El Dorado are indifferent to it. Voltaire comes across as a cultural relativist here: so much of what culture believes in is just idle superstition (for example, the idea that gold is valuable and should be fought for). Traveling the world, one notices the arbitrariness of certain cultural norms, and Candide's travels seem to give him some sense for the comic futility of Europe's search for riches in the New World.


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