Candide

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Themes and Colors
Optimism and Disillusion Theme Icon
The Enlightenment and Social Criticism Theme Icon
Religion and Philosophy vs. The World Theme Icon
Love and Women Theme Icon
Wealth Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Candide, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Women Theme Icon

Candide's search for Cunégonde is what threads together the novel's otherwise senseless sequence of adventures. The pursuit of Cunégonde, and of other women, is also the reason for the most of the characters' misfortunes: from the Candide's expulsion from Westphalia, to Pangloss' syphilis, contracted from Paquette. Candide uses women as a symbol of insatiable human desire (or perhaps, more specifically, male desire), a force which causes pain and conflict in the world. Women in the novel are almost always a cause for conflict and violence: there is violence between men over women, as well as violence committed upon women by men. Women are also used by the novel to illustrate the futility of human desire: by the time Candide reaches Cunégonde, she has lost her youth and beauty, and he no longer desires her (though he still marries her).

The use of women as symbols and plot devices in Candide should not distract from the novel's serious consideration of the suffering and oppression of women. In a novel filled with characters who suffer great misfortunes, it is worth noting that female characters are arguably the worst off: not even Pangloss endures as much misery as the old woman in the captivity of the Moroccan pirates.

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Love and Women Quotes in Candide

Below you will find the important quotes in Candide related to the theme of Love and Women.
Chapter 15 Quotes

“Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world signify nothing; I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew and of an Inquisitor; she has great obligations to me, she wishes to marry me; Master Pangloss always told me that all men are equal, and certainly I will marry her.”

Related Characters: Candide (speaker), Pangloss, The Young Baron
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Candide prepares to rescue Cunegonde from the hands of her "owner," Don Fernando. Candide offhandedly mentions that he hopes to marry Cunegonde one day, a statement that Cunegonde's brother, the Young Baron, finds absurd. The Young Baron insists that Candide is not nobly born, and therefore not worthy to marry an aristocratic lady like his sister. Candide replies that he's always been taught that all men are created equal; therefore, he's a perfectly suitable match for Cunegonde.

The passage is an interesting example of how Candide, in spite of his naivete and occasional foolishness, has some pretty good ideas (and Voltaire just uses Candide's naïveté to show the bad ideas human society has come up with). Candide thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, an idea that Voltaire clearly finds laughable, and yet he also believes in a classic Enlightenment tenet: all men are equal (an idea that Voltaire believes whole-heartedly).The Young Baron comes across as a comically irate, conceited character, so obsessed with genealogy and blood that he hesitates to save his own sister from capture (capture from the eminently aristocratic Don Fernando, by the way).

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