Candide and The Interesting Narrative of
the Life of Olaudah Equiano point out different roles of religious
convictions about violent evil. By the time Voltaire wrote Candide, he was no
longer a Christian. He believed there was not a rational basis for the
Christian belief in God at work in the world. Whereas, Equiano’s experience of
slavery brought him to Christianity, which helped him make sense of how God
could redeem an evil act such as slavery. After reading the short stories the
reader can conclude that the view of Christianity is irrelevant in the social
life of Voltaire, while Equiano believed that Christianity provided sufficient
answers to injustices like slavery.

Candide studied under Professor
Pangloss, who taught him, we live in the best of all possible worlds. In
the beginning, Cunégonde seeks out to have affectionate affairs with Candide. Unfortunately,
they were discovered, which caused Candide to be ejected from the castle.1
This could symbolize the Biblical Fall. Like Eve, Cunégonde comes across the forbidden
knowledge of sex and shares it with another person.

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Candide made his way to Holland, after losing
Pangloss in a war. While in Holland, he begged for food and money but received only
threats. He spoke to a priest who was preaching about charity. The divide
between Catholics and Protestants explained in the hostile response of the priest.

A kind Anabaptist took him home, cleaned, fed, and helped him recover.

Candide, thankful, expresses his repeated faith in Pangloss’ optimism.

Shortly, Candide comes across Pangloss, who
had caught syphilis.2
Pangloss told Candide that his hometown had been invaded, Cunégonde had been raped,
they destroyed the castle, and slaughtered everyone. Candide helped Pangloss back
to health, and they traveled to Lisbon. After they had arrived, an earthquake struck,
killing thousands.3
They survive, but were overheard discussing philological reasoning, and were
accused of denying original sin and free will, elements that are important to
Catholic doctrine. The religious scholars of Lisbon determine that an
auto-da-fé, a contemporary ritual for the punishment of sinners and heretics,
is the best way to prevent further earthquakes. Pangloss is led to be hung
for denying original sin, and Candide, to be whipped for having listened
with approval. Candide began to question Pangloss’ optimistic philosophy. 4

An old woman comes
across Candide after his whipping and took care of him. The old woman
turned out to be a caretaker of Cunégonde, and he was soon to be reunited with her.

She was being sexually shared by a Grand Inquisitor, and a Jewish merchant.5
As each gentleman enters, Candide slayed each one.6
Candide, Cunégonde, and the old woman fled to a village in the Buenos
Aires. The Governor wants to keep Cunégonde as his mistress.7
Candide flees with Cacambo while Cunégonde stays with The Governor, because the
assistants of the Inquisitor are about to land in Buenos Aires;

The recurring stories of misfortune suggest
that suffering is a universal feature of human life. The old woman’s story is prevalent
in the literature of the time: an authoritative person ends up in a lower
social status. The old woman is missing a buttock, and Pangloss missing an eye.

They are terrible injuries but, they allow life to go on. In the old woman’s
philosophical reflections on human perseverance, there is a broader argument:
that life is made up of constant suffering, injustices, stupidity, disruption,
and motion, not rest.

Candide and Cacambo travel to the Kingdom of
the Jesuits, where Candide discovers that Reverend Cammandant, a young man, of
his home kingdom. As they reunite, their conversation takes an unexpected turn
when Candide tells of his intentions of marrying Cunégonde, the Reverend’s
sister. In human defense, Candide kills him, and he and Cacambo flee to the
wilderness.8
They are captured by savage Orillons, who plan to eat them.9

Candide and Cacambo wander through the
wilderness, soon reaching a society filled with precious metals and cheerful
people, but are not able to stay for very long.10
The king assists them by giving them many riches and flock of red sheep.11
Candide concludes that this must be the best of all possible worlds, that
Pangloss described. He sends Cacambo to search for Cunégonde, promising to meet
him in Venice. As Candide is traveling to Venice his flock of sheep was stolen
and a series of events happen which causes him to question abandoning his
optimism.12

Candide and Cacambo travel to Turkey, where
they heard that Cunégonde was working as a servant.13
On the ship, they find that Pangloss had been enslaved. Candide pays to have him
freed. After arriving, he freed Cunégonde and the old woman. Cunégonde had become
ugly, but Candide still wished to marry her. They marry, and move to a small
farm.14
There, they complain about their misfortunes and discuss philosophy. Candide
comes across an old Turkish farmer, because of him, Candide is inspired to
abandon the endless questions of philosophy. He concludes that while we are
alive, “we must cultivate our garden.”15

Voltaire agrees with Equiano that slavery is
a terrible act, but Voltaire doesn’t agree about his religious convictions.

Voltaire believed there was not a rational basis for the Christian belief in
God at work in the world. Whereas, Equiano’s experience of slavery brought him
to Christianity, which helped him make sense of how God could redeem an evil
act such as slavery.

Equiano’s narrative is a successful Christian
conversion story although, much of the story tells about his experiences in
slave trade. He begins by describing his homeland; he states that Jews and
Africans share a common culture.16
Equiano emphasized the inferiority that African Americans felt from the Europeans,
but explains that slavery was common amongst his own people. At an early age,
he remembers being separated from his family, and being taken to Virginia.17
He was astonished by the horrifying conditions the Europeans forced them into. He
observed families being separated. The white people did not have any thought of
the pain and distress this caused. Michael Pascal purchased Equiano and took
him to London. 18
The Guerin sisters were relatives of Pascal and Equiano stayed with them. They instructed
him in the Bible and began to teach him to read and write, and took him to be
baptized.19
Equiano escorted Pascal on more voyages, where Equiano began to hope for his
freedom. Pascal betrayed Equiano by selling him to Captain Doran, and
stole everything Equiano’s had.20

Doran sold Equiano to Mr. King, a Quaker
merchant, who treated him with great respect and acknowledged his impressive
seaman skills.21
Equiano participated in a series of voyages with Thomas Farmer. These voyages
involved the transport and exchange of slaves and other goods.22
Equiano began to develop his own commercial activities; Farmer allowed him three
pence, which allowed him to slowly learn economics. Throughout their voyages,
Equiano continually dealt with unfair treatment; white men refused to pay or
tried to cheat him. He soon managed to save forty pounds enough for his
freedom. King and Farmer persuaded him to stay with them. Equiano observed situations
where freemen were forced back into slavery. On a trip to Europe, Farmer grew
ill and died, making Equiano captain. He continued to travel and participate in
slave trade, though he was hopeful to go back to England.23
After being betrayed many times, he finally managed to obtain
a certificate of good behavior from Mr. King and returned to England.

Equiano contacted Miss Guerin, who helped him
attain a trade as a hairdresser. 24
He did not stay on land very long and soon went back to sea. He was unsatisfied
with his questions about eternal life and the sinfulness he saw among
Christians all around him. He began to struggle with his faith, but wanted to
learn how to deepen it. In Turkey, he became familiar with Christians who
helped him understand the Bible. He experienced a spiritual epiphany on his way
back to England. A vision of Jesus on the cross which proved to be a spiritual
rebirth, defining his faith. On this trip, he unsuccessfully instructed Musquito
Indian prince about Christianity. Equiano helped Irving, but he wanted to
return to England, but again he was betrayed. Once again, he returned to
England but returned to the sea shortly. He participated in an unsuccessful
voyage to Africa to return slaves to their origin. He concludes by calling upon
Christian feelings to make moral disputes to end slavery.25

Christianity is irrelevant
in the social life of Voltaire, while Equiano believed that Christianity
provided sufficient answers to slavery. Candide
and Olaudah Equiano point out
different roles of religious convictions about violent evil. Voltaire agrees
with Equiano that slavery is a terrible act, but Voltaire doesn’t agree about
his religious convictions. Voltaire believed there was not a rational basis for
the Christian belief in God at work in the world. Whereas, Equiano’s experience
of slavery brought him to Christianity, which helped him make sense of how God
could redeem an evil act such as slavery.

1 Candide, 42

2 Candide,
46- 48

3 Candide, 51

4 Candide, 53

5 Candide,
54-56

6 Candide, 58

7 Candide, 67

8 Candide, 70

9 Candide, 74

10 Candide, 79

11 Candide, 82

12 Candide, 88

13 Candide,
101

14 Candide,
115

15 Candide,
119

16 Costanzo,
Angelo. The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano.

Broadview Press, 2002. 55

 

17 Costanzo, Angelo, 77

18 Costanzo, Angelo, 77

19 Costanzo, Angelo, 93

20 Costanzo, Angelo, 109

21 Costanzo, Angelo, 157

22 Costanzo, Angelo, 130

23 Costanzo, Angelo, 165

24 Costanzo, Angelo,
180-182

25 Costanzo, Angelo, 252-253