Chapter 20 – What Happened at Sea to Candide and Martin


1 The old philosopher, whose name was Martin, embarked then with Candide for Bordeaux. They had both seen and suffered a great deal; and if the vessel had sailed from Surinam to Japan, by the Cape of Good Hope, the subject of moral and natural evil would have enabled them to entertain one another during the whole voyage.
2 1 Candide, however, had one great advantage over Martin, in that he always hoped to see Miss Cunegonde; whereas Martin had nothing at all to hope. Besides, Candide was possessed of money and jewels, and though he had lost one hundred large red sheep, laden with the greatest treasure upon earth; though the knavery of the Dutch skipper still sat heavy upon his mind; yet when he reflected upon what he had still left, and when he mentioned the name of Cunegonde, especially towards the latter end of a repast, he inclined to Pangloss’s doctrine.
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“But you, Mr. Martin,” said he to the philosopher, “what do you think of all this? what are your ideas on moral and natural evil?”

“Sir,” answered Martin, “our priests accused me of being a Socinian, but the real fact is I am a Manichean.”

“You jest,” said Candide; “there are no longer Manicheans in the world.”

“I am one,” said Martin. “I cannot help it; I know not how to think otherwise.”

“Surely you must be possessed by the devil,” said Candide.

4 1 “He is so deeply concerned in the affairs of this world,” answered Martin, “that he may very well be in me, as well as in everybody else; but I own to you that when I cast an eye on this globe, or rather on this little ball, I cannot help thinking that God has abandoned it to some malignant being. I except, always, El Dorado. I scarcely ever knew a city that did not desire the destruction of a neighbouring city, nor a family that did not wish to exterminate some other family. Everywhere the weak execrate the powerful, before whom they cringe; and the powerful beat them like sheep whose wool and flesh they sell. A million regimented assassins, from one extremity of Europe to the other, get their bread by disciplined depredation and murder, for want of more honest employment. Even in those cities which seem to enjoy peace, and where the arts flourish, the inhabitants are devoured by more envy, care, and uneasiness than are experienced by a besieged town. Secret griefs are more cruel than public calamities. In a word I have seen so much, and experienced so much that I am a Manichean.”
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“There are, however, some things good,” said Candide.

“That may be,” said Martin; “but I know them not.”

6 In the middle of this dispute they heard the report of cannon; it redoubled every instant. Each took out his glass. They saw two ships in close fight about three miles off. The wind brought both so near to the French vessel that our travellers had the pleasure of seeing the fight at their ease. At length one let off a broadside, so low and so truly aimed, that the other sank to the bottom. Candide and Martin could plainly perceive a hundred men on the deck of the sinking vessel; they raised their hands to heaven and uttered terrible outcries, and the next moment were swallowed up by the sea.
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“Well,” said Martin, “this is how men treat one another.”

“It is true,” said Candide; “there is something diabolical in this affair.”

8 While speaking, he saw he knew not what, of a shining red, swimming close to the vessel. They put out the long-boat to see what it could be: it was one of his sheep! Candide was more rejoiced at the recovery of this one sheep than he had been grieved at the loss of the hundred laden with the large diamonds of El Dorado.
9 The French captain soon saw that the captain of the victorious vessel was a Spaniard, and that the other was a Dutch pirate, and the very same one who had robbed Candide. The immense plunder which this villain had amassed, was buried with him in the sea, and out of the whole only one sheep was saved.
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“You see,” said Candide to Martin, “that crime is sometimes punished. This rogue of a Dutch skipper has met with the fate he deserved.”

“Yes,” said Martin; “but why should the passengers be doomed also to destruction? God has punished the knave, and the devil has drowned the rest.”

11 1

The French and Spanish ships continued their course, and Candide continued his conversation with Martin. They disputed fifteen successive days, and on the last of those fifteen days, they were as far advanced as on the first. But, however, they chatted, they communicated ideas, they consoled each other. Candide caressed his sheep.

“Since I have found thee again,” said he, “I may likewise chance to find my Cunegonde.”

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6 Responses to “Chapter 20 – What Happened at Sea to Candide and Martin”

Martin’s long speech still carries a bite today (even in this translation). I always think of New York City when I read: “Even in those cities which seem to enjoy peace, and where the arts flourish, the inhabitants are devoured by more envy, care, and uneasiness than are experienced by a besieged town.”

Hope is not the same thing as optimism, and it is ultimately hope that distinguishes Candide.

Candide gives a hilariously feeble defense in support of the best of all possible worlds here, and this exchange is almost like the punchline to the monologue that precedes it. It also serves as a microcosm of the kinds of interactions that Candide has with a variety of sufferers throughout the book.

Manicheans solved the problem of evil by believing in two equally powerful forces in conflict. Evil exists because God simply doesn’t have the power to eliminate it.

There’s great comic tension between the philosophy of Pangloss, where evil is by definition good, and Martin’s “WYSIWYG” dualistic point of view where evil is, for lack of a better term, evil. Ironically, Martin’s belief in a dead religion comes directly from observed experience, whereas Candide’s belief in optimism comes from books and Pangloss.

There’s something iconic in the contrast between Martin’s clear-eyed cynicism and Candide’s dreamy counter-intuitive idealism. I think I’m now going to waste some time trying to identify the silent, Vaudeville, or ‘50‘s comedy team that most reminds me of Martin and Candide.

And why shouldn’t he chance to find Cunegonde? He’s found everyone else. Coincidence (and luck) is part and parcel of Candide. But before you reject all of these coincidences out of hand as nothing but cheap comedy, think about how many of us have unexpectedly run into a friend in a strange city? How many great moments in history and our own lives have been influenced by accident, coincidence, or luck? As always, Voltaire exaggerates, he piles coincidence and lucky chance onto one another with dizzying, impossible quickness. Certainly these moments function as pure comic effect, as plot device, and as a way of satirizing literary forms, among other things. Yet they also reinforce the idea that we are somehow connected, and the hope that we can actually find each other (and a better life) as we blunder around in this chaotic world. Voltaire himself must have thought hope was important (even if it is so consistently dashed in Candide). He ended his poem about the Lisbon Earthquake by writing that hope was man’s sole happiness on Earth:

“A caliph once when his last hour drew nigh,
Prayed in such terms as these to the most high:
‘Being supreme, whose greatness knows no bound,
I bring thee all that can’t in Thee be found;
Defects and sorrows, ignorance and woe.’
Hope he omitted, man’s sole bliss below.
(from the Theo Cuffe translation)

Of course, Voltaire was coy about whether hope meant the hope of heaven, or the hope of making the world a better place.