Thursday, April 3, 2014

Final Thoughts on Candide, Chapters XXV - XXX

Chapters I - VIII
Chapters IX - XVI
Chapters XVII - XXIV

In these final chapters, Candide and Martin meet the Pococurate, the "man who has never known what worry is."  In other words, he must be the happiest man on earth, right?

Wrong!  The Pococurate has everything one's heart could desire, and yet he is never pleased or content. He has access to the pleasures and leisures of this life, but he is so bored and miserable with it all.  He can no longer recognize or appreciate beauty in art or music, and he orally shreds the great masters of literature and philosophy.

Martin agrees with plenty the Pococurate opines, but Candide is confused because he at least has the sense to know great artists, musicians, authors, and philosophers.  Then Candide says to Martin,
You must admit that there is the happiest man alive, because he is superior to all he possesses.
But Martin replies,
Don't you see...he is disgusted with everything he possesses?  Plato long ago said that the best stomachs are not those that reject all food. 
Candide believes,
...isn't there a pleasure in criticizing everything and discovering faults where other men detect beauties?
And Martin ends with,
That is to say...that there is a pleasure in not being pleased.  
Later, Candide and Martin meet six miserable, dethroned kings, all of whom still have servants.  One of them is Cacambo.  (It's a long story, and Candide buys his freedom.)

Now the three men continue their search for Cunégonde, and, lo' and behold! Pangloss, the Baron, and the Reverend, whom Candide thought all dead, are alive and slaves on a ship.  Again, he buys their freedom.

Candide then asks Pangloss, after a recap of all his calamities, if he still believes in his optimistic philosophy.  Pangloss stands firm because, after all, he is a philosopher, and it would not look good for him to reject his own ideas or those of Leibnitz.

Candide illustration by Quentin Blake
In the end, Candide reunites with Cunégonde, who, after all of her misfortunes, is no longer the beautiful, sweet young woman Candide desires to marry; nonetheless, he marries her, and she becomes more hideous and insufferable.  Together, along with the old woman, Martin, Pangloss, and Cacambo, they buy a little farm with what little money they have left and toil in hard labor.  Martin is exasperated with his circumstances, while Pangloss tolerates his burdens.

Candide Illustration by Quentin Blake
One day, Candide, Pangloss, and Martin meet an old Turkish man who invites them to his house, where they are treated hospitably by his children.  The three men presume the old Turk is well-off because they live like kings, but it is the opposite; he reveals that his children help him to manage his small farm.  He says,
...we find that the work banishes those three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.
On their way home to their own small farm, the three men review what they understand about work and life: that the six dishonored kings prove that "high estate" always ends miserably.  Candide remarks, "...we must go and work in the garden."

Pangloss shares,
When man was placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there "to dress it and to keep it", to work, in fact; which proves that man was not born to an easy life.  
We must work without arguing, said Martin; that is the only way to make life bearable.
And everyone agreed.

And they lived happily ever after, together.

Candide illustration by Quentin Blake
Final Thoughts

Candide was entertaining, just enough, though I enjoyed it more toward the middle and end.  I am especially relieved that it closed on a more positive and lighter note, although it is regrettable that so much disaster had to be experienced before the characters figured a useful plan to do what is good and right.  I appreciate the conclusion to work hard and essentially be grateful for what they had.  Of course, Pangloss still believed that Candide had to go through such pains before he could enjoy this life he has now, but I do not think that Candide was buying it.

4 comments:

  1. Quentin Blake illustrated a translation of Candide?? He's my favorite illustrator :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, isn't that interesting? You can see it here: http://www.foliosociety.com/book/CND/candide.

      Delete
  2. I'm still not sure whether I "got it". Voltaire puts you on a roller coaster ride, pelts you with philosophy but doesn't elaborate, throws in characters he knows but you don't and then expects ……….. what???? I think whether I liked it or didn't like it would depend wholly on how I approached it. I'm still uncertain as to how I feel about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think what enhanced my reading of Candide was simultaneously reading White Noise, which is a modern day comical satire about life and death. But before I started WN, I was dumbfounded about Candide, and I took it too seriously. If that little change did not occur, I probably would have had the same reaction you do.

      Delete