The Role of Women in Voltaire's Candide
Voltaire talks about the role of the female race in the eighteenth century through the women in the novel, Candide. Cunegonde, Paquette, and the Old Woman suffer through rape and disrespect regardless of their social status. Even though these women are considered higher class, they are still mistreated by men. These characters are not very important to the story and do not possess any interesting characteristics. It is cleat that even the writer does not look towards women as equals. Voltaire describes how woman were below men at this time and how they had very few options in life.
Cunegonde is the daughter of a wealthy lord and lives in a castle. She is referred to as "the fair Cunegonde" (Voltaire 38) and is described to be "extremely beautiful" (Candide 5). She is also described to sound like a typical woman: she is completely reliant on men to protect her and faints at the sight of any distressing situation. Cunegonde is not very knowledgeable of the world and she is obedient to whomever she is with at the time. While living at the same home as Cunegonde, Candide falls in love with her and does not mind her femininity. She knows her position as a woman and that she has a few options if she wants to survive. She uses her beauty (the only thing women had) to her advantage and never questions things like most of the male characters. Her acceptance of being lower than men perfectly shows how women had limited options at this time.
Throughout the story, Candide expresses his love for Cunegonde. He sees her as a beautiful, innocent woman. Cunegonde is the one to initiate their romantic relationship, which was not typical during this time period. She is the subject of horrific violence that causes her to lose the beauty and innocence that Candide saw in her. Voltaire describes her to be a curious person, "filled with the desire to be learned" (Voltaire 3). When she witnesses the sexual encounter between...