The Best of Both Worlds

In Voltaire's Candide, the title character voyages from continent to continent in search of love and the meaning of life. On his journeys, his optimism--learned from his ever-present tutor, Pangloss--is slowly whittled away. Candide experiences corruption and deceit, particularly in the church. Most importantly, Candide realizes that one should cultivate one's own life and not leave anything to chance. Through these lessons, Candide develops from an innocent student into a wise young man.

Born in Westphalia, Candide is the illegitimate son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. He is therefore provided an education by the premiere philosopher in Westphalia: Pangloss. Pangloss' main philosophy is optimism. Whenever Pangloss is presented with a bad experience from another character, he simply says that it is for the best. At one point, for example, he says, "[Syphilis] is indispensable in this best of all possible worlds...for if Columbus, when visiting the West Indies, had not caught this disease...we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal" (30). With similar optimism, Candide proceeds on his journey. However, as he develops as a character, he realizes that this is not how the world operates.


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