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Free Study Guide: Candide by Voltaire - Synopsis / Analysis

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How an old woman took care of Candide and how he regained that which he loved


Candide follows the old woman. She gives him ointment, feeds and clothes him. She tells him to sleep and goes away. She returns the next day and looks after him again. He is grateful to her. She then takes him to a house and shows him a trembling woman who is veiled and bedecked with jewels. He is surprised to find that she is Cunégonde. They both faint. They are revived and they express amazement. She admits that she was raped and her family was massacred. Candide also tells his story in a faltering voice while his eyes are focussed on Cunégonde who listens attentively.


The old lady is like a Good Samaritan to Candide. She is a mother figure who gives him comfort. She gives him a place to stay and food to eat. She introduces him to Cunégonde. This is a surprising co-incident. Voltaire has pointed out the inhuman behavior of the society when he tells us that Cunégonde was raped and her family was massacred. Compared to the people, who did so, the old lady is certainly an extremely humane and considerate person. In the later chapters, the reader comes to know that she is the daughter of the Pope and a Princess. She has gone through monumental suffering. Yet she does whatever she can to relieve the suffering of others.


Cunégonde’s story


Cunégonde describes how her family’s castle was invaded. She resisted a huge Bulgar as he raped her. He stabbed her on the side. A Bulgar captain came in and killed him. Then he took Cunégonde as a prisoner of war. Later he sold her to a Jewish banker, Don Issachar. She claims to have resisted his advances. Being threatened with auto-da-fé, he agreed to share her with the Grand Inquisitor. He now has her on Mondays, Wednesdays and the Sabbath. The Inquisitor has her on other days. She describes her invitation to auto-dafé. Ladies were served refreshments between mass and execution. She was surprised to see Pangloss and Candide. She realized that Pangloss had cheated her in claiming that all was for the best. She recalls all her sufferings and the kiss behind the screen, which caused them. She is grateful to God that the old woman brought her to Candide. She offers him supper. Don Issachar arrives.


In this chapter, the reader is told further about the inhuman behavior prevailing in society. A Bulgar rapes Cunégonde. The Bulgar captain later sells her off as though she was a commodity. She is now shared by two men. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. It is the day of rest. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Saturday. The Christian Sabbath is on Sunday only. Thus this could create a conflict. Therefore, the Inquisitor visits Cunégonde around midnight on Saturday.

The variety of people with whom Cunégonde gets sexually involved depicts the immorality of people from every class, country, religion, and every walk of life.

The auto-da-fé exposes the tremendous superstition prevailing in society. However, it is not merely a superstitious way of trying to prevent earthquakes. The Inquisitor may also have another motive and that is to scare away his Jewish rival and have Cunégonde entirely to himself.

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