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‘The Sailor’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 5, pages 20-23
In describing the storm aboard the ship that Candide, Pangloss and James sailed, Voltaire accurately portrays the travails described by the few literate survivors of the North Atlantic Middle Passage to America, that one wonders if Voltaire had not read the journal of Labadist jasper Dankerts, who appears to be precisely represented by James the anabaptist, who lends a hand aboard the faltering ship and is beaten for his trouble by a sailor, who he nevertheless aids to his own detriment.
“A Tempest, a Shipwreck, an Earthquake, and What Else Befell Dr. Pangloss, Candide, and James, the Anabaptist”
In defiance of fate the sailor becomes bandit, plundering the earthquake ruined town off the coast of where the ship had been wrecked, killing James, the best of them. This the morally worst but physically best man [for the sailor swam ashore as Candide and Pangloss floated aboard wreckage to shore], among their number throve under society shivering circumstances. Is Voltaire indicting the complaisant slave mind of the economic collective?
“the sailor, defying death in pursuit of plunder” is admonished by Pangloss:
“…you trespass against universal reason, and have mistaken your time.”
The sailor declares, “death and zounds” and defies the notion of universal reason and declares himself four times the trampler of the crucifix in as many voyages around the world.
Pangloss is then engaged in philosophical discourse with a man of the Inquisition as wine is drunk and fates are sealed, the sailor having disappeared from the record, his plundering and wenching and infamy of no concern to the minds of the leading men of Lisbon, just wrecked by earthquake, as they sought consecrated scapegoats for the appeasement of their sense of piety.
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