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Candide: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Disgusted with France, Candide expresses to Martin his hope that England will be a better country. But as soon as they arrive at Portsmouth, they witness a blindfolded man being executed by firing squad on a warship. Candide asks why this man is being executed, and is told that the man is an admiral who failed to kill a sufficient number of French soldiers. Horrified, Candide refuses even to step ashore. He makes a deal with the Captain to take him directly to Venice.
When Voltaire wrote the novel of Candide, England and France were fighting in the Seven Years War. The execution of the admiral is a specific example of the general cruelty and absurdity of war. The admiral is killed not because of a failure in strategy or tactics, or for cowardice or even treason, but for not meeting his quota in terms of killing the enemy.
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