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Candide | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

The old woman is right—everyone on the ship has an equally heartbreaking story to tell, which passes the time until they reach Buenos Aires. Upon their arrival, Candide, Cunégonde, and the old woman call on the governor, Don Fernando d'Ibaraa y Figueora y Mascarenes y Lampourdos y Souza. The governor sends Candide away so he can propose to Cunégonde, who asks for 15 minutes to consider his offer.

The old woman points out that Cunégonde is no longer a virgin, nor does she have any money to her name. Don Fernando is the most powerful man in the Americas and, frankly, she needs him. "Is this the moment for you to pride yourself on your unswerving fidelity?" she asks the young woman.

At that very moment, a ship pulls into the harbor carrying a judge and policemen looking for the man who killed the Grand Inquisitor. The old woman tells Cunégonde that she must stay with the governor, who will keep her safe. She then finds Candide and tells him to flee "or within the hour you will be burned alive."

Analysis

No longer confined to the small world of Thunder-ten-tronckh, Candide realizes that Pangloss's ideas, while nice in theory, don't apply to most people. Everyone on the ship has suffered in some way or another. It is easy for Pangloss to think this is the best of all possible worlds; after all, he has a cushy job on a beautiful estate. He neither works the fields nor serves in battle. Candide's gradual distancing of himself from his beloved tutor's ideals is a critical commentary on philosophers making blanket statements about life without actually experiencing it.

The old woman, on the other hand, has experienced more difficulties in life than anyone should. She knows firsthand that women have two things to offer a man: virtue and beauty. Cunégonde has only the latter left, and the old woman has no qualms about telling her to use it to her advantage. In the old woman's eyes, safety and financial security are more important than affection. When she tells Cunégonde to marry the governor, she is essentially saying, "Take care of yourself; no one else will."

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