Greed in Candide
In Voltaire’s novella Candide, the main character’s newly found wealth from an idealized Eldorado is exploited by the world’s fixation of greed that ultimately effects himself and others as he learns that money cannot buy happiness.
Candide is brought up amongst greed, reared in a castle in a small corner of the world in Westphalia with the privileges of being the son of a baron’s sister, his life is ultimately influenced by this example of money and power. His journey into the world, after his expulsion, begins with the notion that “everything is for the best” from his philosopher Pangloss that every cause has a reaction (Voltaire 2). It isn’t until he is out of Europe traveling with his servant Cacambo when he is told that “this hemisphere is no better than the other” as Candide is almost eaten alive for being mistaken for a Jesuit priest (Voltaire 32). Candide is drafted by the Bulgars that pillaged his home and raped his love, only to be labeled a deserter and flogged in the gauntlet to be pardoned by the King of the Bulgars for being “ignorant of the ways of the world”(Voltaire 4). In a time where money was scarce, Candide performs the “Bulgar manual of arms…with such grace…they gave him a company of infantry to command” for a small army that were fighting against the Jesuits (Voltaire 18). When it had become know that the jewels from her slain owners Cunegonde had stolen from her, were spotted and certainly in time Candide will have to answer for their deaths, chooses to flee for his life from Buenos Aires. Cacambo leads him to the Jesuits who would “be delighted to have a captain who knows the Bulgar drill” that should secure a small fortune (Voltaire26). As luck would have it, the commanding officer of these Jesuits, known as Los Padres, happened to be the brother of Cunegonde, who welcomes Candide. It was a brief joyous occasion before he learned of Candide’s love for his sister and his intentions to marry her. A struggle ensues and Candide “drew his own sword and thrust it up to the hilt in the baron’s belly” killing him (Voltaire 29). Cacambo is swift to react and quickly disguises Candide in the dead baron’s Jesuit clothes. They were soon captured by native cannibals and If it wasn’t for slaying the baron they would have both been eaten, having been mistaken for Jesuits enemies. “Cruelty, conflict and greed are not restricted to the old world” but it is optimism that has lead Candide and Cacambo on to the sought after mythological fortunes of Eldorado (Wood 197).
The background of Eldorado spawns from sixteenth century “rumours of a golden king” that lead Spanish expeditions in South America in search of a “king…powdered in fine gold-dust” (Silver 1). Over time the golden man turned to golden land and was believed to be in the area of the dense jungles of the Amazon. Although believed to be an actual place up until the seventh century, Eldorado has been reflected in literature as a “realm of symbolism”(Silver 2).
Because the rest of the world is tainted, by process of elimination Eldorado should exist as a “country where everything is for the best” (Voltaire 35). This is a mere “dream of perfection” (Wood 197) that allows Candide a glimpse of a society that “offers a life without challenge…a life… stagnant rather than ideal”(Kahn 887) . This society doesn’t offer anything to Candide as he has already known of greed from the outside world and the temptation to live well, even though the people of Eldorado live extremely well, is not enough as has become accustomed to class distinctions that do not exist in Eldorado. Since their arrival, Cacambo was fluent in their Peruvian language, which made Candide “servant to his own valet” which has made him a second class citizen in a world without classifications (Voltaire 35). Candide’s excuse to leave is to find his lost love Miss Cunegonde along with “fifty (sheep) loaded with gold, jewels, and...
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