Candide, a novel written by French Philosopher Voltaire, takes place in Europe throughout the 1800’s. Women in the 1750’s did not have many privileges and were taken advantage by the men. Voltaire portrays this through the very limited female characters of Cunegonde, Paquette and the Old Woman. These women all coming from different origins, still suffer from the same hate, cruelty, and sexual abuse that women went through in the 18th century. As the book follows Candide through his journey to find love, he realizes the hardships that the women face.
In the beginning off the story Voltaire introduces the audience to Cunegonde daughter of a German baron and her mother’s chambermaid, Paquette. This is just the beginning where we can see how Voltaire expresses the differences between the men and the women. When describing the two female characters he uses only physical features to do so. The two women do not get described as being brave, hardworking, resilient females instead he used “plump, appetizing and extremely beautiful” to describe Cunegonde, and pretty brunette as Paquette. By Voltaire using only these ways to characterize the very few females throughout the novel, he is showing how unimportant they were in that time. They were seen to men only as beautiful, helpless little prizes that they could claim. We especially see this as the novel goes on. After Candide is kicked out of the Barons castle for having a sexual encounter with Cunegonde, he later comes in contact with a woman who is referred to only as “the old woman”. The daughter of Pope Urban and Princess of Palestrina, who was brought up in great wealth. She begins to tell Candide her story, at the age of 14 she set sail to mourn over the death of her fiancé, and her ship got attacked. The men raped all the women and sailed to Morocco to sell them as salves. She saw her mother and other women getting fought over by all of the men. She then was awoken to a man attempting to rape her. As her story continues, she was sold for slavery many times and lastly ended up in the hands of a Muslim military commander, who planned to kill her and other women for food. This is just one of the females in the book who suffered physical and sexual abuse. When Candide finally reached Cunegonde, he finds out that the soldiers attacked the attacked and killed her whole family. Cunegonde was found being raped by a soldier and was then captured by a Bulgar Captain. There she spent her time as his mistress’s and was then sold off to two men who then shared throughout the week. Throughout the whole novel we see that the women are looked at as nothing more than a prize for the men to play around with. Regardless of the wealth or background of the women’s families, they were all treated disrespectfully by men.
Throughout this novel it is noticeable that mainly all of the characters that are introduced are men, specifically military men or men of great wealth. These men in this novel live a more gracious but jealous and selfish lifestyle. Throughout the book there is lots of violence and killing men of other men, mainly for women. All the men want is to have not one but many women throughout their lives. We first see this in the beginning of the novel when Pangloss, is having an affair with the main Paquette. Later it is found out that the Old Woman had a fiancé who was then killed by his mistress. The novel is a sequence of events that all relate back to women. The men get along by bonding over the slavery and sexual abuse of these women. They sell them from one to another and strip the women of what they have. However, the men who do not come from wealth or authority experience life a bit different.
The lifestyle that the men who were characterized as having power or wealth in this novel differed from the men who did not have this. Candide is a prime example of this, when being kicked out of the baron castle he is found half dead by two men. These men then convince him to join the army where he experiences much abuse. The men give him an ultimatum of either being executed or run through two line of men who will be attacking him with weapons. He was left nearly butchered after that experience. Since Candide was a man who did not want to engage in war, and had nothing else left, he was taken advantage of and physically abused.
Throughout this Novel we see the different experiences that the men and women in the 18th century Europe went through. The women were treated as nothing more than a toy for the men to play around with and then sell to another man. They underwent, physical, mental and sexual abuse throughout their lives. They also experienced slavery where they were taken advantage of being mistresses for many men. Women in 18th century Europe were considered to be of no importance to the community. The men of wealth and power experienced a life not too short of what would be considered luxury in that time. For the men like Candide, who did not enjoy the acts of killing and abusing women and other men, he was stuck being the one abused. Although he did not go through the brutal acts that the women did, he still did suffer from abuse.