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Reading Questions for Voltaire's Candide

Vocabulary: auto-da-fé, Deism, Enlightenment, Manichée, noble savage, nom du plume, Panglossian, satire

Introduction: What is Voltaire's real name? How is his work a reaction to the ideas of Alexander Pope in An Essay on Man?

Lecture or Handouts: none

Identify the following characters and places: Candide, Cunegonde, Pangloss, James the Anabaptist, Martin, Captain Vanderdendur, Abbé of Perigard, Cacambo, the two native girls in love with an "ape," Isachar the Jew, Thunder-ten Tronkh castle.

Candide, Cunegonde, Paquette, Martin, Dr. Pangloss, Vanderdendur, Abbé of Perigard

Reading Questions:

  • Chapter I:
  • Where did Candide grow up?
  • How is the Baron characterized in the opening chapters? What kind of guy is he?
  • What does Dr. Pangloss have a degree in?
  • What "evidence" does Pangloss present that the world is designed with the good of mankind in mind?
  • What does Voltaire mean when he states that Pangloss was engaged with the servant girl (Paquette) in experiments in natural philosophy? What is natural philosophy?
  • Why is Candide kicked out of the castle?
  • Chapter II:
  • How does Candide end up joining the Bulgarian army?
  • After Candide tries to go AWOL, how do his officers respond when Candide argues in favor of free will and choice?
  • Chapter III
  • After the bloody stalemate, the two armies each pause and sing the Te Deum in their respective camps. What is the Te Deum? What's the irony in this situation?
  • James we discover is an Anabaptist. What is an Anabaptist?
  • In the next-to-last paragraph of this chapter, right after Candide reasserts Pangloss' adage about the world being "all for the best," who does he encounter?
  • Chapter IV
  • What is the identity of the diseased wretch in this encounter?
  • What news does Pangloss have of Cunegonde? How does Candide react?
  • From what disease is Pangloss suffering? From whom did he contract this illness?
  • Look at the "genealogy" of the disease. What is humorous about the vectors who transmitted it across the ages? Additionally, how is this a satire on ideas of noble lineage?
  • What is Pangloss' argument to "prove" the disease is necessary and right? According to him, what would we not have if we didn't have syphilis?
  • What is Pangloss' argument to "prove" that war is good and necessary?
  • What is James' reaction to Pangloss arguments? Does he agree?
  • Note that Pangloss is now "one-eyed" in the last two paragraphs. (Syphillis has eaten his other eye.) What is the possible symbolism here?
  • Right after Pangloss asserts that all private misfortunte is for the general good, what happens on the ship in the final paragraph?
  • Chapter V:
  • How does James die? Why is that ironic?
  • How does Pangloss explain the purpose of the Bay of Lisbon?
  • When they arrive at Lisbon, Pangloss begins to make his philosophical arguments about the inherently good nature of the universe to a stranger dressed in black. Who does this person turn out to be and why does it get our heroes in trouble?
  • Chapter VI:
  • What is an auto-da-fé?
  • Why are two other Portugeuse souls going to be killed along with the hero?

Passages for Identification: Be able to identify the author, the title, and briefly explain the significance or context of the passage.

A: In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth,
whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul.

B: "It is demonstrable," said he, "that things can- not be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles—thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings— and we have stockings."

C: 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.

D: There was never anything so gallant, so spruce, so brilliant, and so well disposed as the
two armies. Trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made music such as Hell itself had never heard. The cannons first of all laid flat about six thousand men on each side; the muskets swept away from this best of worlds nine or ten thousand ruffians who infested its surface. The bayonet was also a sufficient reason for the death of several thousands. The whole might amount to thirty thousand souls . . . . At length, the two kings [caused] the Te Deum to be sung each in his own camp,

E: You remember Paquette, that pretty wench who waited on our noble Baroness; in her arms I tasted the delights of paradise, which produced in me those hell torments with which you see me devoured; she was infected with them, she is perhaps dead of them. 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.


Food for Thought:

One critic has stated that, in the opening chapters, Candide lives in a "false paradise of Panglossian self-delusion." What do you think the critic means by this? How is Candide's condition better or worse by the end of the tale?


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