Women equality in Candide

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I think that Voltaire’s Candide opposed the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft and the Enlightenment period. He demonstrates the inadequacy of women and portrayed them to be weak and inferior. The Three Spinners gives young impressionable girls the idea that there is a guy out there that would treat them like the Prince treated the girl in the story, and give her everything she could want, if she was beautiful.

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This is an unrealistic and unhealthy view in any relationship, no matter what the so-called benefits are. However, if you are not beautiful, The Three Spinners tells girls that if you would hard, you will be a desirable catch for marriage. I feel that both stories show you how women had extremely little alternatives if they wanted to survive or advance in life. Women either had to marry, become the mistress of a powerful man (sometimes both), or they had to be able to work hard in a skill trade to be able to survive. Neither of these stories supported the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft and the Enlightenment period regarding equality for women.

I feel that Voltaire did not value women equality at all when he wrote Candide. It seems to me that all the women in Candide were just vulnerable characters that did not really contribute to the story in any real way. The women were rated by their looks with no acknowledgement of their intelligence at all. Each of the women, Cunegonde, Paquette, and the Old Woman, all fell victim to rape and/or sexual exploitation, that Voltaire appears to describe rather indifferently. I think that Voltaire tended to mock the women’s hardships and focused on the helplessness of the women.

Let’s start with Cunegonde. She is the first female character to be mentioned in Candide.

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