Voltaire’s Candide: Pococurante Episode and Cultivating our Gardens, etc.
commentary by Robert Nathan Richardson
Pococurante Episode, etc.:
The Pococurante episode draws much from it’s name- Pococurante in French means someone who attains, or possesses. The character Pococurante had it all. The episode illustrates how that’s not the solution.
Candide had seasons of begging for his bread, like when he first left his boyhood “best of castles” castle, and the Bulgarian men let him eat with them but he said no, not having money even to sup. They insisted, and Candide ate. Candide carried his optimism at this time, saying that all that happened was for the best. Candide eventually lets his pursuit of Counegonde be a driving factor of his life, and he comes upon much evil and beatings along the way, but when he gets to El Dorado and receives lots of money, he becomes a weaker character. He begins to try to buy everyone out, trying to be a hero how he deemed it in his childish optimistic mind. Pococurante, like those who get money from Candide, the slaves etc., don’t get happiness from their money. Voltaire was satyrical in his writing to attack bad social systems of his day, be they the aristocrats like he (a very bold denunciation) or abusers of women (as we see how the prostetutes don’t like their livelihood they hate it, as Paquette, whose name means gift in French, but they do it to stay alive although in mystery), or church leaders, or governors. Voltaire was a defender of good, he showed the lifestyle of Pococurante was bound for failure, that not dozens of the best thinkers works would please him. Even Martin, the ultra-pessimist old man of the book things to find some good in Pococurante’s immaculate library, but Pococurante insists that it’s all rubbish, not more than a handful of it all worth any time. At least Martin, the pessimist, made himself to be patient in the farm cottage where the narrative ends, seeing that he would be ill treated, bad off anywhere he goes. At least he wasn’t so much of a problem.
In Voltaire’s day, the Catholic church extracted money from it’s people (of whom these were many as forced by the crusaders), and in other ways were very abusive to the people. They were killed for having a copy of the bible, or wanting one. It was a time where “Great Inquisitions” were happening, where to do something about it were killed. The church leader “The Grand Inquisitor” so named in the text was a personification of this. Be it paying off sins, or paying friers for sermons, as we see in the last few chapters of the text, the church was largely built on money. We see it failed in being good for it’s people and did more harm than good. The frier in the text gives sermons for money, but at the end of the day, he, as he says all of his comrades, go home gloomy as the rest, and we find this frier looking for happiness with the prostetute Paquette. So Voltaire has this other character, Jean the Anabaptist, who isn’t so “religious” formally as he is just a good person, always acting for others. Ana-baptist in the 18th century when this was written could mean anti, or, that he was obviously not the stereotypical religion person of his day, yet he was more “religious” than the best of them. Voltaire fearlessly teaches the renunciation of pride and riches, showing repeatedly the unhappiness from them. Candide loses his El Dorado treasures when the robber voyage man’s ship sinks, and we find our hero wanting him dead, and rejoicing in his sunken ship almost as he would rejoice in love, being with Counagonde. He is addicted to riches, rejoicing when one red sheep laden with money comes back to him, thinking that he is on top again, deeming that the world is good because it gave him money, and he is so audacious as to link that with the hope for true love, that he would have chance at finding “his” beloved Counagonde. Candide Martin Dr. Pangloss Paquette Counagonde and the old lady nestle in a cottage home choosing farming as their intent Turkish neighbor with merely 20 acres of farmland he tills himself with his household to avoid the 3 evils highlighted in the text (weariness, vice, and want), reasoning that maybe there they would find more than what Pococurante, the owner of the pleasure that comes from being pleased by nothing, had found, or than the glory-ease-loving x-kings they supped with who were dethroned by war who went around seeking special treatment and to live in the past where they merely were popular and at ease. Candide is ready to renounce the world and all its madness he has seen in it and go to his Counagonde dispute her new ugliness to honor his honor and manhood. To cling to the only virtue he ever knew, however small it was.
Cultivating Our Gardens:
Candide saying they need to work and maintain their harden was the solidity he had in his life that kept him going. Finally he had a homestead away from the Bulgarian army with 30 thousands being killed in their wars for not enough reason, or from his make out to be perfect home castle where he was hidden from the world and learned virtually nothing, and worse, did virtually no work, making him be weak, and making him take a long many whippings beatings from Bulgarians etc, loses of riches from robber sailors and demanding slave owners he bought the slaves Dr. Pangloss and his brother in law loses of his love Counagonde from expulsion from the castle from holding her to her being a sex slave dish washer depressed barely surviving victim of prince in Constantinople, or her having minimal faithfulness, marrying merely to satisfy her temporal want of money.
Candide had been raked over the coles by experience, and pessimist friend Martin that his philosophy that he held so dear in his heart of all-emcompassing-optimism, seeing all was as it ought be and was for the best, Candide saw slowly to renounce that, all though he still clung to happy moments like reuniting with Dr. Pangloss and seeing the Turkish farmer be simple and happy, and seeing Counegonde dispute her barbarity and unattractiveness.
Candide in effect is done philosophyzing, he has taken to the method of the only stable truly happy individual he knows, the Turkish farmer. He doesn’t want to get mixed up in more war and loose more friends, and have to masquerade all over the world again. He says to Pangloss, at Panglosses suggestion, at all whits end, that rather than play with the idea of all things they had been through having worked to their good, Pangloss feeding his atrophic desire to be a professor of a distinguished German college, oppressed with philosophy and thinking and talking to be at peace in his life, set on the come what will and just let it be that way- attitude, being grateful for the seeming “cheerios” they were munching on, these tiny gratuities they were not at ease to enjoy, Candide doesn’t but all this now! Now perhaps we didn’t act in the prime way, and maybe that’s why we’re out here in this forsaken place eating these forsaken victuals. No, Pangloss, lets just get humble before we fall on our ignorant faces again and go start digging our way out of this whole. Lets not let fate wash over us lest this garden we’re enjoying the small ravishes of even be overtaken by weeds, and we loose everything else of the everything we’ve lost. Pangloss, our eating these things right now, lives how they are now, have NOTHING TO DO with the pirates, the wrappings, the misfortunes, the cannon ball experiences we’ve walked into. The world is crazy Pangloss, and I want to just stay here and take care of the one thing I have liberty over. It seems these basic human rights you’ve preached to me all through life aren’t so basic, and I’m not dancing in that circle any longer. You’de do well yourself to set those books down a moment or two and till this garden, lest it gets over run and we’re back on the luck shop riches poverty chase lifestyle, and I’m tired of that! El Dorado was a hoax, they wouldn’t admit us there anyway we need to work what we’ve got and see if we can’t blunder it away too. Depending on others to survive is as good as putting your cheeks in the butchers hands and shaking on the salt. I’m all for philosophy and optimism Pangloss, but not what you’re used to. One too many harlots Pangloss, one too many free tickets and quick fixes. You can find me in the garden, and maybe then we’ll talk.