Candide (French: Candide, ou l'Optimisme, also published in English as Candide: or, All For the Best, Candide: or, Optimism and Candide: or, The Optimist) is a short comic novel by the French author Voltaire. It was first published anonymously in 1759.
The main character in the novel is a young man named Candide who is born into a life of luxury and is indoctrinated into taking an extremely optimistic view of life by his tutor, Dr. Pangloss. Candide's comfortable lifestyle suddenly comes to an end one day when he is thrown out of the castle of his uncle the baron, in which he has spent his entire life, for kissing the baron's daughter Lady Cunégonde. Candide consequently suffers many more misfortunes. He wanders around Europe and South America, finding misery everywhere (apart from during a brief stay in the fabulous kingdom of El Dorado). He is reunited with, separated from and then reunited again with Pangloss and Cunégonde, who both survive what appears to be certain death. In spite of all the suffering that he sees, hears about and experiences, Candide clings to his philosophy of optimism for a long time, before eventually deciding that the best way to live is simply to keep busy.
The novel satirizes philosophy, religion, government, the military and other institutions of the day. The plot also pokes fun at the conventions of romantic and adventure novels.
Candide is the young illegitimate nephew of a German nobleman called Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh. He lives in Castle Thunder-ten-Tronkh with the Baron's daughter Lady Cunégonde, the rest of the Baron's family, Paquette the chambermaid and his tutor Dr. Pangloss. Candide's tutor Pangloss wholeheartedly subscribes to a theory of optimism and teaches Candide that "all is for the best" and that they live in the "best of all possible worlds". Candide unquestioningly believes his tutor. The young man also has romantic feelings for Lady Cunégonde.
One day, Cunégonde sees Pangloss having sex with Paquette in some bushes. she decides that she wants a similar show of affection from Candide and entices him to kiss her. For daring to kiss the Lady Cunégonde, Candide is cast out of the castle. He is picked up by some Bulgar soldiers who trick him into joining their army. During his military service, Candide is flogged and nearly executed, as well as having to fight against the Bulgars' enemies the Abares.
Candide escapes from the army and arrives in Holland. He is given help by an Anabaptist named Jacques, who also has an optimistic view of life. Candide is reunited with Pangloss, now a beggar and suffering from syphilis which he caught from Paquette. He tells his former pupil that Castle Thunder-ten-Tronckh was destroyed by the Bulgar army and that everyone inside was killed, Lady Cunégonde having been disemboweled. Jacques cures Pangloss of syphilis but he loses an eye and an ear in the process.
Pangloss, Jacques and Candide sail to Portugal. A terrible storm destroys their boat in Lisbon harbor. Jacques tries to rescue a drowning sailor but ends up drowning himself in the attempt. Candide is horrified that the sailor does not try to save Jacques but Pangloss tells him that it was meant to be. The ungrateful sailor, Candide and Pangloss are the only survivors of the shipwreck. They arrive in Lisbon shortly before it is struck by an earthquake. Candide is injured, the sailor leaves to loot houses that the earthquake has damaged but Pangloss remains unshaken in his optimism.
The following day, Pangloss meets with a member of the Portuguese Inquisition and tells him about his philosophy of optimism. As a result of this conversation, Pangloss and Candide are arrested for heresy and tortured. Pangloss is hanged. Candide takes advantage of another earthquake to escape his own execution.
An old lady approaches Candide and leads him to Lady Cunégonde, who is still alive in spite of having been disemboweled by the Bulgars. She has become the slave of a Jewish merchant and the Grand Inquisitor of Portugal, both of whom arrive and are angry to see their slave with another man. Candide kills them both. He, Cunégonde and the old woman escape to South America. Cunégonde complains about the many misfortunes that she has lived through. The old woman tells her own sad story. She reveals that she is the illegitimate daughter of Pope Urban X and that she had to sacrifice one of her buttocks to feed some starving men.
In Buenos Aires, the governor asks to marry Cunégonde, at which point a Portuguese officer arrives who wants to arrest Candide for the murder of the Grand Inquisitor. Candide escapes to Paraguay with his practical servant Cacambo (who has not been referred to until this point in the novel).
The Paraguayan border post is manned by a Jesuit priest who turns out to be Cunégonde's brother. He explains that, although he was thought to have been killed in the attack on Castle Thunder-ten-Tronckh, Jesuit priests unintentionally revived him when they were preparing him for burial. He joined their order out of gratitude. When Candide says that he wants to marry Cunégonde, her brother attacks him. Candide fights back and stabs him. This results in Candide becoming upset with himself for having killed yet another priest.
Candide and Cacambo are captured by a hostile tribe. The tribe believe Candide to be a Jesuit, because he is wearing Cunégonde's brother's robe, and are eager to eat him. Cacambo manages to convince the tribe that Candide only has the robe because he killed a Jesuit and the two men are released.
After a long journey on foot and by canoe, during which they live on wild fruit and berries, Candide and Cacambo arrive in El Dorado, a land of plenty where the streets are decorated with jewels and everyone is happy. After a month in El Dorado, Candide tells the king that he wants to leave because he cannot bear to be separated from Cunégonde. the king thinks Candide is foolish for wanting to leave but helps him to do so anyway. Candide and Cacambo are given a vast amount of money, many provisions and one hundred gigantic red sheep to serve as beats of burden. However, they quickly lose most of the gifts that the king has given them.
Candide and Cacambo arrive in the Dutch colony of Suriname. Cacambo returns to Buenos Aires to find Lady Cunégonde, planning to meet up with Candide later in Europe. Candide's few remaining red sheep are stolen from him. When he complains of the theft, he ends up getting heavily fined by a magistrate himself. Feeling lonely, Candide decides to engage a new traveling companion. He interviews several potential candidates, all people who have lived through terrible misfortune, before selecting Martin, a confirmed pessimist.
Candide and Martin arrive on the English coast, just as an admiral who failed to kill enough of the enemy is being executed to set an example to others. The horrified Candide decides to leave England at once.
In Venice, Candide is reunited with Paquette, the chambermaid who gave Pangloss syphilis. She is now a prostitute who spends most of her time with a monk named Brother Giroflée. Paquette and the monk seem to be happy at first but soon reveal how miserable they really are.
Cacambo meets up with Candide again. He tells him that Cunégonde is in Constantinople. She is washing dishes for a Transylvanian prince and she has become hideously ugly. Candide travels to Turkey with Martin, Cacambo, Paquette and Brother Giroflée. On the ship, he is reunited with Pangloss and Cunégonde's brother, both still alive and now galley slaves. Candide buys their freedom and pays a heavy price to secure their continued passage to Constantinople. In spite of everything that he has lived through, Pangloss continues to insist that his optimistic philosophy cannot possibly be wrong.
Candide is reunited with Cunégonde. He finds that she has indeed become hideously ugly but marries her just to spite her brother. Candide and his companions settle down in Turkey, living on a farm which Candide has bought with the remainder of his fortune.
Candide and his friends hear of a dervish who is said to be the wisest philosopher in the country and seek him out. Pangloss asks the dervish what they should do to cope with a life full of suffering. The dervish asks Pangloss why he is worried about good and evil. He says that people are like mice on one of the King of Egypt's ships, in that the king is not bothered about the comfort of the mice, before abruptly slamming his door.
On the way back to their farm, the companions meet an old Turk who tells them that his philosophy is to keep busy, saying that hard work is the best way to escape boredom, vice and poverty. Candide decides that the old Turk is right. Ignoring Pangloss' complains that everything turned out for the best, Candide insists that he and his companions should get to work.