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Candide | Chapter 24 | Summary

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Summary

A month passes without Candide hearing from Cacambo and Cunégonde, and he wishes he had either stayed in El Dorado or killed himself. Martin isn't any help at cheering up his friend, telling him that if Cacambo had any sense he would have taken Candide's money and claimed Cunégonde for himself, or at least found another woman and made a new life.

Candide, desperate to prove to Martin that some people actually are happy, wagers that a young woman they see on the street and her companion, a monk, are content with their lot. He invites them to dinner. It turns out that the woman is none other than Paquette, the Baroness's chambermaid who gave Pangloss syphilis. Having been traded from one man to another, she now makes her living as a prostitute. She is miserable. The monk is also unhappy, spending what little money he has on prostitutes and wishing he were in some other profession.

Martin says he has won the wager, and Candide decides to change the fortunes of their dinner companions by giving them each a large sum of money. Martin warns Candide that such an act will only make their lives even worse.

Analysis

Paquette's story parallels those of Cunégonde and the old woman. All three women, forced to give up their virginity, are thrown into lives of sexual servitude. They are passed from man to man as if they are worth no more than cattle. This situation is clearly not acceptable to Voltaire. He shows exactly how miserable these women's lives are as part of a larger effort to change 18th-century attitudes about the purpose and position of women in society.

Voltaire uses Brother Girofleo's unhappiness to show the corruption of the church. He has no calling to become a monk. Instead his family has forced him into the life. What little money he earns he spends on women. He is not a pious man dedicated to God; he even considers converting to Islam, which would be the ultimate heresy. The monk's descriptions of his life do double duty, indicating that all is not well within the church and that Voltaire has a major ax to grind with the institution and its leaders.

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