A Freudian Analysis of Voltaire's Candide
In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud refers to the important role that love plays in the world of Man. Love certainly plays an important role in Voltaire's Candide; throughout Candide's journeys, a constant factor is his love for Lady Cunegonde and his desire to be with her.
Freud writes "the way of life which makes love the centre of everything [...] comes naturally to all of us," (Freud, p. 29). Candide's love for Cunegonde is the driving force of his life from the moment they are parted at the beginning of the novel until they are bonded in marriage at the end. Throughout his experiences, Candide continues to think about Cunegonde. Even after narrowly surviving the Bulgar-Abar war, Candide's thoughts are still about Cunegonde (Voltaire, p. 26).
"We are never so helplessly unhappy as when we have lost our love object," (Freud, p. 29). Man is never more vulnerable as when the person he has chosen as the object of his love is taken from him. When Candide is at Eldorado, where no-one goes hungry or has any needs which go unfulfilled, he tells his companion Cacambo, "'I shall never be happy without Lady Cunegonde,'" (Voltaire, p. 82). Candide found, it would seem, the one place on Earth where there is no suffering from poverty, war, or injustice. He and Cacambo could have lived long and fulfilling lives in Eldorado, but Candide insists on returning to his beloved Cunegonde.
When Candide and Cunegonde are at last reunited, Cunegonde asks Candide "[what] has happened to you since that innocent kiss you gave me?" (Voltaire, p. 40). The kiss, which Cunegonde describes as innocent, cost Candide dearly; her brother the Baron "drove Candide from the house with powerful kicks to the backside," (Voltaire, p. 21). "On the one hand love comes into opposition to the interests of civilization; on the other, civilization threatens love with substantial restrictions" (Freud, p. 50). Candide's love for Cunegonde was clearly not accepted by her family. When Candide expresses his desire to marry Cunegonde to her brother, the Baron strikes him across the face for suggesting "such a hot-headed notion," (Voltaire, p. 67). To the Baron it is completely absurd that Candide, who is of lower birth, should think of marrying his sister, "who has seventy-two quarterings in her coat of arms," (Voltaire, p. 67).
Candide promptly kills the Baron for disapproving of his love for the man's sister. Candide's reactions are hasty, but they are made by a man in love; indeed, his only explanation for his two earlier killings was simply "a jealous man in love doesn't know what he is doing," (Voltaire, pp. 45-46). Throughout history battles have been started by the impulsive actions of a jealous lover. Kingdoms have risen and fallen for love's desires. Like Candide, a man in love is often blinded to his actions until after the deed.
When Candide is sure that he is going to meet death at the...