Candide. Candide is Voltaire’s optimistic (sometimes naively so) protagonist throughout the work. The reader follows Candide from the Castle of Westphalia in the beginning, to South America and Europe, and finally leaving him to tend his garden in Constantinople. Though throughout the novel Candide tries valiantly to hold onto the teaching of his tutor, Pangloss, who subscribes to the philosophy that maintains that all things are for the best, his experience continues to show him otherwise. In the end, he realizes that man’s role on earth is simply to cultivate his little garden, working the land with his hands, not thinking too deeply about metaphysics.
Pangloss. Pangloss is Candide’s tutor and propagandist of optimism who appears and reappears throughout the story. Though he outwardly supports optimistic determinism throughout the tale, by the end, Voltaire admits that he doesn’t really believe the theory of Leibniz. Like Candide, his personal experiences of misery (catching a sexually transmitted disease, barely escaping hanging, being put into captivity) incline him to quietly abandon his belief.
Cunegonde. Cunegonde is referred to throughout Candidemore than she actually appears. She, like Candide and Pangloss, is also inclined to believe in optimism, though her personal belief in the philosophy is not stressed. Cunegonde is the love of Candide’s life, and the constant focus of his attention. She is raped and tortured on several occasions, leading her also finally to reject Pangloss’ philosophy.
Baron. The baron of the Castle of Westphalia, who also becomes associated with his son, Cunegonde’s brother, near the end of the book, is Voltaire’s symbol for Frederick the Great, a man of whom Voltaire was not a fan.
Jacques. Jacques is the “charitable anabaptist” who bends over backwards to help Candide and Pangloss when they need his aid. Unfortunately (and irrationally), Jacques is tossed overboard by a wicked man during a storm at sea.
Don Issachar. Don Issachar, the wealthy Jewish businessman, is the scapegoat for much of Voltaire’s anti-Semitism throughout Candide. He “shares” Cunegonde with the Grand Inquisitor for part of the book, and is depicted as a cruel, greedy and wretched man, hoping to buy himself earthly happiness. When Issachar returns unexpectedly one night, Candide is forced to kill him.
Grand Inquisitor. This Churchman is equally satirized by Voltaire’s clever pen. When the Inquisitor sees Cunegonde at Mass, he immediately threatens Issachar, forcing him to turn over his house and Cunegonde, his sex-slave, one-half of the week. When the Inquisitor arrives shortly after Issachar, Candide runs him through with his sword as well.
Cacambo. Cacambo, who travels with Candide in the middle chapters of Candide and is reunited with him near the end, is really the first friend of the young philosopher. Voltaire uses Cacambo to paint a satirical portrait of the Jesuits in Paraguay.
Martin. Martin, an “old scholar,” is drafted by Candide towards the conclusion of his adventures, in order to be his companion after the departure of Cacambo. Martin most clearly represents Voltaire’s personal sentiments, not buying Pangloss’ theory in any way, shape or form.