What Does Candide Mean?

Candide is a male name of Ancient Roman origin. Its literal meaning is “white” or “pure.” Figuratively, it means “sincere,” “naive,” or “simple-hearted.” Voltaire named his character so because he wanted to highlight his simplicity and lack of inner meaning. Candide has no ideas of his own, and everything he believes comes from other characters.

The choice of the protagonist’s name was not occasional. As we learn from Chapter 1, Candide is ready to believe anyone who talks to him. Had he met Martin in the Baron’s castle, he would have thought that life is a series of hardships and nothing could be done about it. But his first teacher is Pangloss, a philosopher who believes in optimism. Candide readily takes up the professor’s worldview. The rest of the story describes his disillusionment. Besides, the protagonist had to endure military drilling, war, earthquake, storm, loss of wealth, and disappointment in love to change his mind. 

Candide is a philosophical novella, which imposes specific features on its characters. The genre presupposes that the characters have no intrinsic moral beliefs. Everything they do and say comes from outside. By the way, Pangloss does not have any inner world. His personality consists of an exaggerated set of ideas. He does not think or talk about anything else but optimism.

For this reason, the main character is a “tabula rasa,” on which the author tests different philosophical doctrines. Candide means “white” or “clean,” but not in the meaning of his good and kind-hearted nature. The protagonist is plain and shallow to let Pangloss and Martin easily write their beliefs in his mind.

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