Chapter 1. The happy castle of Baron Thunder Ten Tronckh in Germany. Candide, a young man of suspicious birth and no wealth learns philosophy from Pangloss, who is an optimist and believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. Candide falls in love with Cunegonde, the Baron's daughter, and is kicked out of the castle for that love.
Chapter 2. Candide is forced to join the Bulgar army. He takes a walk and is flogged for desertion.
Chapter 3. War between the Bulgars and the Abares. Candide hides during the battle, then flees. Impoverished and starving, he begs for food. Jacques, a good Anabaptist, gives him food, shelter and a job.
Chapter 4. Candide meets Pangloss who is ill with syphilis and tells Candide that Cunegonde was raped and disemboweled and she and her family are dead. Jacques pays to cure Pangloss and hires him as his bookkeeper. Jacques, Candide and Pangloss sail for Lisbon, Portugal.
Chapter 5. Jacques falls overboard during a storm. Pangloss prevents Candide from trying to save Jacques, "by proving that the bay of Lisbon had been formed expressly for this Anabaptist to drown in." The ship sinks and Pangloss and Candide make it to shore in Lisbon in time for the earthquake. Pangloss explains his philosophy of "it's all for the best" to an officer of the Inquisition.
Chapter 6. Pangloss and Candide are arrested by the Inquisition. Pangloss is hanged and Candide is flogged at an Auto Da Fe which is supposed to prevent future earthquakes.
Chapter 7. The Old Woman helps Candide and leads him to Cunegonde, who survived being raped and disemboweled.
Chapter 8. Cunegonde tells Candide her story and how she now is shared by a Jew, Don Issachar and the Grand Inquisitor. Cunegonde had attended the Auto Da Fe, saw Candide flogged, and arranged for his rescue.
Chapter 9. Don Issachar shows up and Candide kills him. Then the Grand Inquisitor shows up and Candide kills him too. Candide has to flee Portugal.
Chapter 10. Candide, Cunegonde and the Old Woman flee to Cadiz and board a ship for South America.
Chapters 11-12. The Old Woman tells her story.
Chapter 13. They land in Buenos Aires and the Governor proposes marriage to Cunegonde. Police arrive from Portugal to arrest Candide.
Chapter 14. Candide and Cacambo, his servant, flee to Paraguay. The Jesuit Commander is Cunegonde's brother, the Baron of Thunder Ten Tronckh.
Chapter 15. When Candide mentions he wants to marry Cunegonde, the Baron hits Candide with the flat of his sword. Candide kills the Baron. Candide wears the Jesuit robe and flees to the frontier with Cacambo.
Chapter 16. Candide and Cacambo encounter native girls and their monkey lovers.
Chapter 17. Candide and Cacambo arrive at Eldorado where the pebbles on the ground are diamonds and rubies and the dirt is gold.
Chapter 18. The Old Man explains the history and religion of Eldorado. They are Deists who thank God continually for all their blessings. After a while Candide wants to leave to find Cunegonde and points out "If we stay here, we shall be just like everybody else, whereas if we go back...we shall be " rich and able to live as we please. He convinces Cacambo and they arrange to leave Eldorado with 100 treasure laden sheep.
Chapter 19. They arrive in Surinam with only 2 treasure laden sheep. Candide meets a mutilated negro who explains that his sorry condition is the price of eating sugar in Europe. Candide weeps and gives up his optimism. Candide sends Cacambo with millions worth of diamonds to fetch Cunegonde and meet him in Venice. Candide offers to buy passage for the unhappiest man and Martin wins the misery contest.
Chapter 20. Candide and Martin sail for France. Martin is a total pessimist--he thinks God has abandoned the world to some evil spirit, except for Eldorado. Candide says there's still some good in the world. "That may be, said Martin, but I don't know it."
Chapter 21. Candide and Martin discuss the corrupt behavior of people in France.
"Do you believe, asked Candide, that men have always massacred one another as they do today? That they have always been liars, traitors, ingrates, thieves, weaklings, sneaks, cowards, backbiters, gluttons, drunkards, misers, climbers, killers, calumniators, sensualists, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?
"Do you believe, said Martin, that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they could get them?"
"Of course, said Candide."
"Well, said Martin, if hawks have always had the same character, why do you suppose that men have changed?" and so on....
Chapter 22. In France, Candide is taken for more of his wealth by a courtesan and an abbe.
Chapter 23. Candide and Martin pass by England and see an admiral shot for not killing enough enemies.
Chapter 24. In Venice, Candide meets Paquette (Pangloss' mistress at Thunder Ten Tronckh castle who gave him syphilis) and Giroflee, her monk lover.
Chapter 25. Candide visits Lord Pococurante, who has everything and values nothing.
Chapter 26. Candide and Martin have supper with six deposed kings. Cacambo shows up--he's a slave now. Cacambo tells Candide that Cunegonde is in Constantinople.
Chapter 27. Candide ransoms Cacambo and they travel to Constantinople. Cacambo tells him that Cunegonde is now a slave and ugly. They travel on a galley and Pangloss and Baron Thunder Ten Tronckh are among the galley slaves. Candide buys their freedom.
Chapter 28. Pangloss tells his story of misery, yet he still thinks this is the best of all possible worlds.
"Well, my dear Pangloss, Candide said to him, now that you have been hanged, dissected, beaten to a pulp, and sentenced to the galleys, do you still think everything is for the best in this world?
"I am still of my first opinion, replied Pangloss; for after all I am a philosopher..."
Chapter 29. Candide finds Cunegonde and she is ugly. He ransoms Cunegonde and the Old Woman. The Baron still refuses to let Candide marry Cunegonde.
Chapter 30. Candide sends the Baron back to be a galley slave and then he marries Cunegonde. The group of friends move to a farm outside Constantinople where they are horribly bored and miserable just hanging out doing nothing. They visit the Dervish to ask why there's so much evil in the world.
"What does it matter, said the dervish, whether there's good or evil? When his highness sends a ship to Egypt, does he worry whether the mice on board are comfortable or not?"
On their way home they meet a hospitable Old Turk. They admire his lifestyle and think he must be rich.
"I have only twenty acres, replied the Turk; I cultivate them with my children, and the work keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty."
Pangloss continues to philosophize, but Candide realizes finally that philosophy is useless and the only solution is "that we must cultivate our garden."