A wise man once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Authors were using the idea of a journey before Homer wrote the Odyssey. This literary tradition has continued to the present. Two authors that embrace this idea are Voltaire and Sinclair Lewis. In their books Candide and Arrowsmith respectively, a man is followed on his trek through life and the discoveries that he makes along the way.
The two young men start out life as two completely different men.
Martin Arrowsmith, the main character of Arrowsmith, begins life in the small town of Elk Mills in the state of Winnemac. Young Arrowsmith is different from the other boys. He has an intense curiosity that leads him to help out the local doctor during his free time instead of playing with the other boys. At one point the author comments, “Martin had one characteristic without which there could be no science: a wide-ranging, sniffing, snuffling, undignified, unself-dramatizing curiosity, and it drove him on” (Sinclair 280).
His stubbornness and lack of tact dooms him to insult, offend, and generally annoy those that surround him. Despite these strong characteristics, Arrowsmith often sways from his path and has to force himself to go back. He is constantly being tempted by fame, money, or even the pleasures of the flesh. Candide, the title character of Candide is very different from Arrowsmith. Candide is the bastard son of a baron’s sister that is taken in by that very same baron. Candide has an “unaffected simplicity” that causes him to be nave to the ways of the world (Voltaire 19).
His tutor, Pangloss, easily persuades Candide to his philosophy in life of everything happening for the best. Candide takes this philosophy to heart, even though he really does not understand it and relies on Pangloss to explain why things happen. Candide is an honest, trustworthy young man that is taken advantage of for those very reasons on several occasions. At one point, Candide gives money to a prostitute and a monk in the hopes of making each one’s life better, but the two quickly squander the money and return to him to take care of them. These character’s personalities quickly set them up for the journey that they are going to take.
Both, Candide and Arrowsmith would have been content to remain where they were, but circumstances forced both to leave on a journey of self-discovery. As the young Arrowsmith graduates from college, he is forced into a new world that contains unforeseen obstacles. Arrowsmith is now burdened not only with his own care, but the care of his wife, Leora. So in pursuit of a stable life, he travels to the small town of Wheatsylvania. At first he is happy and feels that he is “almost freed from the impatience with which he had started out” (Sinclair 139). Then as Arrowsmith is familiarized with the people that live there, he becomes restless and is forced to leave by the prejudice of the local community. Candide was also forced out of the home in which he had lived. He was in love with the baron’s beautiful daughter, Cunegonde, but had never been able to tell her. Cunegonde knows of Candide’s love and uses him when she wants to conduct a “scientific experiment.” The baron discovers the two in a shocking embrace and drives “Candide from the house with powerful kicks on the backside” (Voltaire 21). Now both characters are banished from the familiar and must now find their way through the confusion of the unknown.
The actual travels of the two characters are complicated plots that jump from location to location. Arrowsmith leaves the small town of Wheatsylvania for the glittering metropolis of Nautilus. Even in Nautilus he cannot be happy because of all the political wrangling. He moves to Chicago, then New York, with a brief stint on the small island of St Hubert. Arrowsmith only becomes happy when he abandons the big city for the wilderness. He retreats to a small cabin owned by a fellow scientist and basks in “the rapture of being able to work twenty-four hours a day without leaving an experiment at its juiciest moment” (Sinclair 426). Candide also does not have a specific destination in mind when he begins. At first he aimlessly wanders through Europe. Almost immediately he is impressed into army service by the Bulgars. After escaping during his first battle, Candide travels to Holland and then to Lisbon where he discovers that his beloved Cunegonde is not dead and that she is willing to run away with him. They escape to Buenos Aires where they are separated when Candide is force to go to Eldorado. Eldorado is a Utopia, but Candide cannot be happy without Cunegonde. Candide says that, “There is nothing solid but virtue and the prospect of seeing Lady Cungonde again” (Voltaire 85). He waits in Paris for her and then Turkey and finally rediscovers her and settles in a small farm outside of Constantinople. There he finds peace even though Cunegonde is not the woman that he imagined her to be, because he discovers how to think for himself. Arrowsmith and Candide take different paths that both lead to self-discovery and the security that comes with it.
A remarkable change can be seen in both characters at the end of the book. Arrowsmith emerges from his trials with a cynical outlook on life. He detests the medical profession and the commercialism that it contains. He develops an “indifference to publicity and flowery hangings” and once he separates himself from it, he feels free. He says, “It seemed to him that this was the first spring he had ever seen and tasted” (Sinclair 428). Candide’s change is a bit more dramatic. He no longer blindly follows the thoughts of others. When two philosophers are arguing on philosophy, “Candide did not agree, but admitted nothing” evidencing that he is now capable of making rational judgments. Their journeys now complete, the two characters are completely changed from how they began.
The two characters of Candide and Arrowsmith take a long time to find what they are looking for. Along the way, circumstances cause the plans to change. These changes shape the person into who they will become. In a way, the journey is more important than the intended destination.