Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Candide by Voltaire, Chapters IX - XVI

Banned books are kind of silly, I think, because who can stop you from reading a copy?  Apparently, Candide was (or still is) on a banned book list (2007) because of its criticisms of the Catholic Church and its questions about why a loving God would allow suffering.  I think it is a fair question and not a reason to ban a book.

For questions about chapter I - VIII, go HERE.

Continuing on...

Candide complicates his complicated life by killing two men, Issachar and a cardinal, within an hour of each other.  Of course, one could argue that it was in self-defense since Issachar drew the dagger first.  Then Candide had to act quickly because the cardinal walked in and would have had Candide - sword in hand, dead man at his feet - arrested and burnt.  What would you do?

With Pangloss out of the picture, Candide often considers what Pangloss had taught him, and he tries to use good judgment.  It's kind of like WWJD? but instead: "What did Pangloss say?"

A new character joins Candide.  She is an old woman who was caring for Cunégonde.  She has quite an unbelievably miserable story to tell, too. But while she wanted to kill herself a hundred times, she says she is still in love with life.  She calls it a weakness, and asks,
is there anything more stupid fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?
Meanwhile, in these chapters, Voltaire illustrates the wickedness of men in high positions of power and honor, including men of the Church.  These are men who abuse their authority and do what is dishonorable, immoral, and unChristian.  This is part of why Candide was banned, I suppose.

Finally, Candide's life is further tangled when he accidentally meets Cunégonde's brother, a baron.  He mentions that he plans to marry Cunégonde, but the baron is offended because Candide is not of noble birth.  Candide is dumbfounded because Pangloss said that "men are equal"; hence it should not matter, right?   Nevertheless, the baron strikes Candide in the face with his swordand Candide regretfully retaliates by "plunging" his sword into the baron.

Candide and Cacambo, Candide's new valet, escape to an unknown country where they are captured by the natives and are about to be eaten.  However, once the natives learn who they are, they actually treat them fairly well.  This little change of events encourages Candide to think maybe all is well with the world.  And so he remarks,
When all is said and done, there is a sterling goodness in unsophisticated Nature; for instead of eating me, these people behaved most politely as soon as they learnt that I was not a Jesuit.  
Imagine how quickly you would change your heart about someone who was about to eat you, but then spared your life.  Would you sing their praises, too?  (No, probably not; but Candide is a gullible fellow, it seems.)

Next week, chapters XVII - XXIV


  1. I liked Cacambo. I found him one of the more balanced characters.

    Who are these books banned by? The church? The government? The book-police? Just wondering ……

    Another whack to the church, and another, and another …….. I feel like saying, "I have got your point, Voltaire." :-)

    1. I'm liking Cacambo, too.

      According to Time Mags Banned Books 2008, upon publication, the Great Council of Geneva and the administrators of Paris, naturally, banned it for blasphemy and seditious reasons. And in 1930, US Customs confiscated copies, and later, the U.S. Post Office (??) demanded its removal from a catalogue. So weird. But I'd like to find out why it continues to remain on banned lists in the U.S. today, if it is so.

    2. Yes, it would be interesting to find out. I imagine earlier bans were because of his bashing of the Catholic church, but I'm not sure about why they would ban it later on. Perhaps because of the content (rapes, murder, dismemberment, etc.) Somehow I'm not so horrified about these things in Candide but I think it's because he doesn't describe anything or dwell on it. The instances are used as a device to get his point across and nothing more.

      And I'm starting to enjoy the book a little more too, as we begin the third section.

  2. Great summary! If I was spared from being eaten, I would outwardly sing their praises. They must not see me as their enemy. Inwardly though, I would be thinking of an escape plan. Candide is about as naive as it gets.

    1. I was thinking the same thing: how can I get out of here? Quick! I'm wondering if there will be a change in Candide by the end of the novella.