Candide

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Themes and Colors
Optimism and Disillusion Theme Icon
The Enlightenment and Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion and Philosophy vs. The World Theme Icon
Love and Women Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Candide, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Wealth Theme Icon

Candide is a subtle critique of wealth and its pursuit. When Candide leaves El Dorado, laden with riches, it seems plausible that this newfound wealth will help him to find Cunégonde. Instead, it attracts no end of tricksters and hangers-on, from the Dutch merchant Vanderdendur who robs and abandons Candide in Suriname, to the imposter Cunégonde in Paris. Candide's vast riches (and their gradual disappearance) are one of the great ironies of the novel. Not only do his riches not help him—they hold him back, slowing down his journey as thieves and flatterers—like the Abbé of Perigord and the Marchioness of Parolignac—gather around him. In the world of this novel, the pursuit of wealth is not just immoral, but useless. The rich Venetian Pococuranté has everything he could ever need, but remains unhappy. Tellingly, in El Dorado, the one place in the novel which comes close to resembling “the best of all possible worlds,” wealth and valuables are treated as useless trifles. Candide himself takes the same attitude, never haggling with the characters who offer him outrageous prices.

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Wealth Quotes in Candide

Below you will find the important quotes in Candide related to the theme of Wealth.
Chapter 3 Quotes

“My friend,” said the orator to him, “do you believe the Pope to be Anti-Christ?”
“I have not heard it,” answered Candide; “but whether he be, or whether he be not, I want bread.”

Related Characters: Candide (speaker), The Protestant Orator (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Candide stumbles upon a group of pious Protestants. The Protestants ask Candide to admit that the Pope is a villain--the Antichrist, in fact. Candide, who barely knows where he is or who his new "friends" are, replies that he doesn't particularly care about the Pope; he just wants some food.

The passage is often interpreted as a satire of the schism between the Protestants and the Catholics that arose during and after the life of Martin Luther. For more than 1000 years, Christianity in the West was generally unified and uniform; however, in the late Middle Ages, a group of Christians called the Protestants rebelled against the Christian (or Catholic) church for what it perceived as the corruption of religious leadership. The schism prompted hundreds of years of radical, bloody warfare throughout "civilized" Europe, prompting many intellectuals, including Voltaire, to point out how absurd the schism really was: why argue over Gods and Popes when people are going hungry? The passage is also a good example of Candide's boundless innocence: he just wants to eat, sleep, and be happy. At times, Voltaire makes fun of Candide's simplicity, and yet he seems to see virtue in Candide's down-to-earth nature: Candide could never be seduced by religious fanaticism.

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Chapter 4 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Pangloss (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

In this darkly comic passage, Candide reunites with his old professor, Pangloss, who's caught syphilis. Candide, who's used to thinking of Pangloss as a cheerful, happy-go-lucky fellow, is shocked to see his old teacher looking so miserable. He asks Pangloss how he's come to catch such a horrible disease, and Pangloss sheepishly admits that he caught the disease because of "love" (he had sex with a chambermaid).

The passage is funny because previously, Pangloss had spoken of love in a lofty, abstract way: he'd claimed that love holds the universe together. Here, however, Pangloss is talking about a more human, earthly form of love: sex. His syphilis seems to undermine his previous thesis that everything happens for the best: on the contrary, the lofty forces he'd previously extolled, such as love, don't really exist; in their place we have real-world phenomena like sex and, unfortunately, disease. The notion of catching syphilis after sex is a cheeky inversion of Pangloss's old thesis: previously he'd claimed that a moment of sadness will inevitably be replaced by some happiness down the line; here, however, a moment of pleasure is immediately punished by a lifetime of discomfort.

"This present Paquette received of a learned Grey Friar, who had traced it to its source; he had had it of an old countess, who had received it from a cavalry captain, who owed it to a marchioness, who took it from a page, who had received it from a Jesuit, who when a novice had it in a direct line from one of the companions of Christopher Columbus. For my part I shall give it to nobody, I am dying."

Related Characters: Pangloss (speaker), Paquette
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Voltaire satirizes many different things at once. Candide is shocked to hear that Pangloss has contracted syphilis from Paquette, the chambermaid. Pangloss proceeds to list out the "history" of his particular disease, tracing its long genealogy all the way back to Christopher Columbus. The joke is that Pangloss's "genealogy" is a parody of people claiming nobility or greatness by listing their ancestors, but this list is just one of people passing syphilis on to each other. Furthermore, in the "genealogy" Voltaire brings down the institutions and members of the clergy, the aristocracy, and the military to Pangloss's level as well--they're all just humans and human ideas, passing around human diseases, despite all their wealth and pretensions.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“For my part, I have so far held out against both, and I verily believe that this is the reason why I am still beloved.”

Related Characters: Cunégonde (speaker), The Grand Inquisitor, Don Issachar
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that the beautiful Cunegonde has been captured by authorities in Lisbon and exploited for her sexuality. She's the property of a wealthy Jewish man named don Issachar, who quarrels with the leading religious authority in the land, the Grand Inquisitor: they both want to have sex with Cunegonde. In the end, they agree to share her, though Cunegonde insists that she's "held out" against them.

This passage is searingly critical in the way that it depicts religious authorities and "pillars of society" as brutal rapists who want to own women, in spite of the prohibitions against sex in their religion. In a strange way, the passage comes across as a defense of racial and religious diversity, albeit with the cynical twist. There's no use claiming that the Jews are inferior to the Christians, or that the Jews are hopelessly corrupt and sexually dangerous, Voltaire implies: the truth is that all human beings are equally evil and predatory. Much like Candide preserving his innocence in the face of the world's corruption, Cunegonde's ability to "hold out" sexually against her owners signals her virtue, whatever virtue is worth.

Chapter 14 Quotes

“You'll make a prodigious fortune; if we cannot find our account in one world we shall in another. It is a great pleasure to see and do new things.”

Related Characters: Cacambo (speaker), Candide
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Candide travels with the valet Cacambo, a native-born Peruvian who tells Candide he'll take him to the land of the Jesuits, who rule over the people of Paraguay with an iron fist. Cacambo is very different from Candide, though they have a few things in common: Cacambo, like Candide, is highly optimistic, and yet where Candide is still (relatively) inexperienced and naive, Cacambo is confident and well-traveled; he knows where to find things. His thesis that "it is a great pleasure to see and do new things" could be taken as Candide's motto: Candide wanders all over the world, always taking a vague, naive pleasure in the new places he sees. Notice that Cacambo believes in the possibility of multiple worlds; it's because he doesn't just accept the existence of one world (like Pangloss) that he's always trying to find new places to explore. Pangloss is the armchair theoretician; Cacambo is the empiricist.

“It is an admirable government. The kingdom is upwards of three hundred leagues in diameter, and divided into thirty provinces; there the Fathers possess all, and the people nothing; it is a masterpiece of reason and justice.”

Related Characters: Cacambo (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Cacambo tells Candide about the land of the Jesuits in Paraguay. Although Cacambo seems to find the Jesuits' kingdom admirable in every way, he describes it in such a sense that it's obvious to us that the kingdom is a tyranny. Cacambo claims that the Jesuit leadership has stripped the natives of all their property, all in the name of religion. The Jesuits claim to use their intelligence and authority to run their territory with "reason and justice," but based on everything about religion and reason we've seen in the novel so far, we can be pretty sure that the Jesuits' government isn't all that reasonable or just.

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.

Chapter 25 Quotes

“But is there not a pleasure,” said Candide “ in criticizing everything, in pointing out faults where others see nothing but beauties?”
“That is to say,” replied Martin, “that there is some pleasure in having no pleasure.”

Related Characters: Candide (speaker), Martin (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Candide and his friend Martin come to the house of the powerful Senator Pococuranté, who lives in great luxury. Pococuranté is, however, an unhappy man--he criticizes all his worldly possessions, and seems to despise everything about his life. Where Martin, who's more cynical than Candide, claims that the Senator must be unhappy, through and through, Candide--ever the optimist--claims that the Senator must get some kind of pleasure out of being so dissatisfied. Candide eventually comes to the odd conclusion that it's possible to be happy about having nothing to be happy about.

The notion that it's possible to be happy in one's misery is actually an age-old tenet of Christian literature, dating back at least to Saint Augustine's Confessions. The passage also alludes to an earlier quote, in which the Old Woman wonders aloud why she didn't kill herself while in the depths of misery. It would seem that there's something about being alive, in and of itself, thats pleasurable, even if every facet of that life is sad.

Conclusion Quotes

“I have only twenty acres,” replied the old man; “I and my children cultivate them; our labour preserves us from three great evils—weariness, vice, and want.”

Related Characters: The Old Turkish Man (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

After a novel's worth of traveling and debating, the characters reach an old Turkish Man who works hard on a farm with his children. The Turkish Man represents, arguably, the closest thing in the novel to enlightenment or peace. Instead of sitting around like Professor Pangloss and debating the causes and meaning of the universe, the Turkish Man works on his property. If there is a path to happiness and peace, it's implied, that path consists of a lot of hard, real-world work.

The passage might as well be a moral for Voltaire's book. Unlike the religious scholars in the pre-Enlightenment era, Voltaire doesn't believe that we should kick back and wait for God to take care of everything (or, following the same twisted logic, embrace every single thing that happens as "God's will"). Instead, we should actively try to change the world and improve it on our own: humans are the architects of their own world, not God.

“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”

Related Characters: Candide (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, everything and nothing has changed. Pangloss continues to philosophize about the "best of all possible worlds," and yet he's now working in a garden, showing that he's willing to get his hands dirty and work for himself, instead of trusting in God that everything will work out for the best. Candide, by contrast, seems to have changed greatly. As the novel began, he was a foolish, naive young man who trusted that everything had a silver lining. Over the course of the book, Candide hasn't entirely lost his optimism, but he has come to see the futility of totally surrendering to "divine providence." The only way to find happiness in the real world is to involve oneself in the real world: thus, Candide resolves to work hard on his garden and trust in his own actions and morals.

The notion of "cultivating our garden" could be taken as a metaphor for the entire Enlightenment project that Voltaire celebrated. Instead of trusting custom and tradition (and thus, religion), Voltaire advocated for secular humanism, according to which all men were created equal, and should be judged by what they achieve in the real world, rather than what their aristocratic ancestors achieved hundreds of years ago. It's for this reason that this quote remains famous and applicable even now, hundreds of years later.