The following notes and questions are to guide you while reading this book. fFor the writing assignment, be sure to refer to the course syllabus, page 3.
Voltaire chose names because they had specific meanings and connotations, e.g.:
  • Candide: trusting, naive, guileless
  • Cunégonde: Kunigunde, a German queen who was sainted because she walked over glowing plowshares unscathed to prove her virginity
  • Pangloss: Greek "all+tongue," i.e. all talk (full of hot air)
  • Thunder-ten-tronckh: "thunder around the trunk," i.e. a lot of noise about the (family) tree, the lineage
  • Pococurante: "little caring," i.e. indifferent

  • "O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!" (p. 53): O what misfortune it is not to have testicles!
    1. The story begins with Candide's forcible ejection from a kind of paradise, and ends with him saying "We must go and cultivate our garden." What are the parallels of Candide's story to the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden? How would you interpret that concluding statement?
    2. What institutions of 18th century European society does Voltaire single out for criticism?
    1. Which of the characters is Voltaire's voice? In what situations? Candide, Martin, the "old man"? Why? Is Voltaire an optimist?
    2. How is Eldorado different from Europe (especially France)?
    3. What is Candide's/Voltaire's final conclusion about the worth of philosophy compared with that of other pursuits in life?
    1. This book is a satire. It exposes perceived evils, vices and shortcomings by ridicule, exaggeration and irony. Why has Voltaire written such a book? What effect does he want it to have? Does he believe that the world will change for the better?