Voltaire’s Candide is a philosophical tale of one man’s search for true happiness and his ultimate acceptance of life’s disappointments. Candide grows up in the Castle of Westfalia and is taught by the learned philosopher Dr. Pangloss. Candide is abruptly exiled from the castle when found kissing the Baron’s daughter, Cunegonde. Devastated by the separation from Cunegonde, his true love, Candide sets out to different places in the hope of finding her and achieving total happiness. The theme of Candide is that one must strive to overcome adversity and not passively accept it in the belief that all is for the best.
Candide’s misfortune begins when he is kicked out of the castle and experiences a series of horrible events. Candide is unable to see anything positive in his ordeals, contrary to Dr. Pangloss’ teachings that there is a cause for all effects and that, though we might not understand it, everything is all for the good. Candide’s endless trials begin when he is forced into the army simply because he is the right height, five feet five inches. In the army he is subjected to endless drills and humiliations and is almost beaten to death. Candide escapes and, after being degraded by good Christians for being an anti-Christ, meets a diseased beggar who turns out to be Dr. Pangloss. Dr. Pangloss informs him that Bulgarian soldiers attacked the castle of Westfalia and killed Cunegonde – more misery!.
A charitable Anabaptist gives both Candide and Dr. Pangloss money and assistance. Dr. Pangloss is cured of his disease, losing one of his eyes and one of his ears. The Anabaptist takes them with him on a journey to Lisbon. While aboard the ship, the Anabaptist falls overboard in the process of rescuing a crew member. Candide finds it more and more difficult to accept Dr. Pangloss’ principle that all is for the best.
In Lisbon there is an earthquake which kills thousands of people, throwing the city into ruins.