Character Analysis in Candide
Candide: The protagonist of the narrative, Candide is both kind-hearted and easily impressionable. Candide demonstrates this naivete during his quest to win over his love interest, Cunégonde. During this quest, a number of misfortunes befall Candide that cause him to question the optimistic ideology of his mentor, Pangloss. The name “Candide” is derived from the latin candidus meaning white. As such, Candide is less of a realistic individual and more of a ‘blank page’ upon which other characters inscribe their own ideas or values.
Pangloss: Pangloss is a philosopher and an optimist. He teaches Candide that their world is the “best possible world.” In this way, Pangloss directly parodies the over-optimistic ideas of philosopher G.W. von Leibniz, a mathematician and philosopher known for his optimistic theories about the world. A number of chaotic events and misfortunes unfold throughout the narrative all of which test the validity of Pangloss’ optimism. When problems arise, Pangloss often chooses to engage in philosophical speculation rather than take direct action towards a solution. Voltaire uses Pangloss to critique both ‘optimistic’ philosophers and the practice of philosophy itself.
Martin: Martin is a jaded scholar whom Candide meets on his travels. Martin’s relentless pessimism acts as a foil to Pangloss’s optimism. However, Martin’s pessimism or negativity is just as flawed as Pangloss’s optimism. Both philosophers fail to account for the true extent of reality.
Cunégonde: Cunégonde is the object of Candide’s affections. She is the daughter of a German baron and is described as young and beautiful. Like Candide, Cunégonde is a rather bland, archetypal character. The difference between Candide’s mad passion for Cunégonde and Cunégonde’s ‘blank’ nature reinforces the satirical tone of the narrative.
Character Analysis Examples in Candide:
"giving a lesson in experimental natural philosophy..." See in text (Chapter I)
"one of his brethren, an unfeathered biped with a rational soul..." See in text (Chapter III)
"and now it is necessary I should beg my bread until I learn to earn it..." See in text (Chapter III)
"she was infected with them, she is perhaps dead of them..." See in text (Chapter IV)
"I maintain that the point is capable of being demonstrated..." See in text (Chapter V)
"I trampled upon the crucifix in four voyages to Japan..." See in text (Chapter V)
"but Pangloss's devils had claws and tails and the flames were upright..." See in text (Chapter VI)
"The old woman desired they would make less noise..." See in text (Chapter VII)
"for there is no time to hesitate. This reasoning was clear and instantaneous..." See in text (Chapter IX)
"had received a handsome sword from the old woman..." See in text (Chapter IX)
"much more affected with your misfortunes than with my own..." See in text (Chapter XII)
"Cunegonde asked a quarter of an hour to consider of it..." See in text (Chapter XIII)
"bast the most consummate effrontery to dare to mention so presumptuous a design..." See in text (Chapter XV)
"The Baroness of Thunder-ten Tronckh was more polite..." See in text (Chapter XXII)
"that there is some pleasure in having no pleasure..." See in text (Chapter XXV)