Use this teacher's guide on Candide, a farcical, humorous, and far-fetched satire, to expand your classroom discussions and learn more about author Voltaire and his work.
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Updated on: January 3, 2001
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1) Through the adventures of Candide and his friends, Voltaire illustrates the supposed ridiculousness of the philosophy that "all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Does he achieve this? Is Candide an effective satire?

2) Pangloss uses the philosophy of the Optimists to account for events and happenings (usually disastrous) to himself, to those around him, and to the world. In one instance he shows that without the loss of his nose to syphilis, Columbus would never have discovered America. Is Pangloss's philosophy logical? How does this philosophy serve the story?

3) Even in his naivete, Candide knows that nothing in his world can be obtained without money, and so he takes jewels with him when he leaves Eldorado. In what instances does Voltaire show that greed is an intricate part of human nature? Is Candide greedy for taking the jewels with him? Do you agree with Voltaire that greed is one of the main causes of evil in the world?

4) Do you think Voltaire believed there is only evil in the world or are there redeeming qualities to the characters in Candide?

5) Is Pangloss still Candide's teacher and mentor at the end of the story, or have their roles evolved into something else? Is Candide wiser at the end of the story?

6) The Anabaptist James makes this statement to Candide and Pangloss: "Man must have somewhat altered the course of nature; for they were not born wolves, yet they have become wolves. God did not give them twenty-four-pounders or bayonets, yet they have made themselves bayonets and guns to destroy each other." Do you agree with Voltaire's assessment of human nature?

7) What does the cultivation of Candide's garden symbolize? What message is Voltaire sending to the reader?

8) Why do many of the characters, including Miss Cunegonde and Pangloss, presumably die and then reappear? Is there a significance to their being "brought back to life"? Why is the Anabaptist James the only major character who dies and does not reappear?

by Voltaire Available from Penguin Classics

Letters on England
Translated and Introduced by Leonard Tancock

Also known as Les Lettres philosophiques, Voltaire's response to his exile in England offered the French public of 1734 a panoramic view of English culture.

Zadig, L'Ingenu
Translated, Edited, and Introduced by John Butt

One of Voltaire's earliest tales, Zadig is set in the exotic East and is told in the comic spirit of Candide; L'Ingenu is a darker tale in which an American Indian records his impressions of France.

Philosophical Dictionary
Translated, Edited, and Introduced by Theodore Besterman

Voltaire's irony, scrutiny, and passionate love of reason and justice are fully evident in this deliberately revolutionary series of essays on religion, metaphysics, society, and government.

Penguin Classics wishes to thank and credit the following books and writers for information used in this guide:

Haydn Mason, Candide: Optimism Demolished, New York, Macmillan, 1992.
Richter Peyton and Ricardo Ilona, Voltaire, New York, Macmillan, 1980.

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