Candide lives in the Thunder mansions located in the Hills. Though his actual lineage is debatable, being the nephew of the farming mogul Baron Thunder, does come with its perks. Candide is raised in a life of affluence ad opportunity with many maids employed to look after him and the villa. For most people, living in the Thunder’s neighborhood was an economic dream that most could only aspire for but knowing the futility in the course, choose not to get inspired towards it. In fact, given the near celebrity status that the Thunder family enjoyed in the rural town of Westphalia, Candide had become quite the boy in the girls’ fairy tale wedding and romances. After all, which lady would not fantasize let alone hold back on the advances of the affluent and handsome Candide?
To most, the Thunder-ten-tronckh mansion were an intimidating sight. The shear amount of glamor and security of the premise left most imagining of the gold and happiness that living on those hallowed grounds could bring. Few were ever invited into the premises and even further, the children who lived there appeared to be too cultured to get involved with commoners. This was until the town woke up to the sight of Candide being evicted from the mansions by his Uncle.
Given the controlling nature of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, Candide and his cousin Cunegonde, who happens to be the daughter of the Baron, had never been exposed to the outside world. With raging hormones and seeing their homeschool teacher Pangloss engage in affairs with the maids, they decide to have a try. After all, Pangloss held a high moral ground on the impressionable teenagers and strongly advanced his teachings of philosophical optimism, seeing the good in all situations. The good that they saw was engaging in an affair themselves. This is to the dismay of the Baron, who in a fit of anger banishes Candide. The young and naïve lad is in for an experience.
Candide lacked the basic skills to find any job, in fact, his social skills were also very wanting. Being used to the generic friendly demeanor of house cleaners, Candide is appalled when people talk back and down at him. This is until he meets tow soldiers returned from a tour. Most people run away from a draft exercise, to the naïve Candide, it promises food and shelter and he volunteers himself to the army. To his horror, boot camp is a living hell. The tough training regimen, beatings and strictness are too much to bear for the mellow raised lad. Knowing that actual war is even worse, he deserts, and escapes from the boot camp. This becomes the turning point for him as he sees the destruction of the war in each town he passes. It makes him question the teaching of philosophical optimism, especially after he meets Pangloss, who is now a disease ravaged and homeless beggar who is later executed in an act of religious fanatism.
Having fled to Spain, where he is reunited with Cunegonde, Candide makes an impression on the army generals who promote him to captain. He poses class, a fine education, and commendable military skills. However, in a twist of dejavu, his affair with Cunegonde becomes his undoing as he once more has to flee after killing two gentlemen who made advances towards her.
After much adventure that has him travelling to England and witnessing even more war, Candide marries Cunégonde and buys a small plot. There he settles with along with Cacambo, Martin, Pangloss, and the old woman who showed him hospitality after fleeing the boot camp. Candide still loves Cunegonde despite her now being ugly and enslaving his uncle the Baron for not blessing their union. After the marriage, Candide is lapsed by boredom that he simply reflects back and acknowledges that ‘hardwork(not love) is the only way to make life bearable.’
Significance of the Tale
The modern age has brought with it a lot of advantages. Despite this, much as in the era of Voltaire, wars and class exclusions are still rampant. Currently, America is involved in numerous military expeditions in the Middle-East and Northern Africa, the realities of the war are grim, however, given the service benefits and the low merits of qualifications, many young men volunteer. Religious fanatism is still a sore point in the world today. What can only be described as Acts of terror are still perpetrated I the name of religion. This has led to most questioning it altogether.
Even though Voltaire may have written Candide over a century and a half years ago, the themes that he explores still resonate to this day. In fact, the more the world changes, the more it still remains the same. Problems that were present in Voltaire’s era are still apparent to this day. After all, each one of us has seen a beggar and most school leavers have to face the prospects of unemployment. However, the ironic piece in all this is the place of romantic love. Much like Voltaire tries to show, in today’s love, it is still a cause of pain and anguish to many.
Voltaire (1931)(1759). Morize, Andre, ed. Candide. Paris