Friday, December 7, 2012

Commentary on Women in "Candide"

I find it interesting that Voltaire commented on the treatment of women during the Enlightenment Era given that women did not have much of a role, or impact during this period. As a whole, women were still treated typically treated as they were in the past, however Voltaire decides to confront Europe about how they treated women. Voltaire illustrates how women were "semi-eaten", raped, and beaten through Cunegonde and the Old Woman whose difficulties (like rape) were so common, that they were not even worth mentioning. Is Voltaire advocating a change in the treatment of women?, or is he simply adding the the plot of the story.

4 comments:

Austin Falk said...

I think Voltaire's mentioning of women goes along with his bashing of Europe. Remember from the novella that Candide seems to put other places and people such as Turkish Constantinople and the dervish on a pedestal. Part of the reason for this is that the Turks were very progressive for the time. The Turks went outside of the confines of their Islamic religion and gave women many responsibilities that no where else was doing during the time. Voltaire's mentioning of women in Candide goes along with the central goal of his novella which was to bash Europe and cut down organized religion. Both Europe and organized religion did not give women that much authority at the time so Voltaire tries to counteract this.

Laura N said...

I think that Voltaire may have been commenting on the abuse of women by men and institutions to enact change, or at least bring awareness to their plight, because he uses sarcasm and black humor to make the reader laugh and feel disturbed at the assaults on women. In El Dorado, men and women seemed to have equal status for the most part, which might prove that Voltaire championed more gender equality

Throughout the novella, women are objectified, or rather Voltaire shows how they are objectified in Europe and other cultures. For instance, Cunegonde, is the object of Candide's desire, and she, like many other characters is static. The old woman's story shows that women are dehumanized to the point that mutilation, rape and sexual enslavement is acceptable towards them. Other women, such as Pacquette and Marquise, act like prostitutes. So in the novella, we are viewed as objects whose mere purpose is to offer their bodies for sex. Is Voltaire saying the women are sluts? or is he saying that women are abused and objectified wrongly? or is he saying there's a mixture?

Laura N said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay A said...

I think Voltaire is pointing out realities in a lot of places. I know this is supposed to be satire, but when he uses Pacquette and the Marquise, their examples seem pretty realistic. A lot of women really do become prostitutes. I feel like the jab at the Marquise is more a jab at the nobility than noble women in particular. The nobility have no value for marriage and sleep around as they please. It happens in the men and the women. Cunegonde also deals with the issues of beauty. Men desired her for her face and figure, but as soon as she lost her beauty, no one wanted her. I think that points out how much depends on a woman's appearance. And then you have the old woman. Her story does seem a little more exaggerated than the other three. I think the old woman points out the dehumanization of women where she is used as a snack for the men at war.