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As a counterargument to the philosophy of optimism--meaning optimal, or best--put forth by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, a philosphy that God created a perfect world, Voltaire's satire, Candide, exposes the evil that man himself fashions which prevents this philosophy from being true.
The old woman
As the embodiment of the sufferings imposed upon humans, the old woman presents evidence of life not being "the best of possible worlds." She tells Cunegonde and Candide with conviction, "...neither of you has known misfortunes like mine." In Chapter XI this old woman relates her many tribulations to Voltaire: The daughter of Pope Urban X and the Princess of Palestrina, as a young woman this princess was beautiful. But, she has been sold into slavery. witnessed her mother drawn and quartered; she herself was cannabalized, having one buttock cut from her and eaten. In Chapter XIII, her influence upon Candide is apparent:
The beautiful Cunegonde, having heard the old woman's history, paid her all the civilities due to a person of her rank and merit. She likewise accepted her proposal, and engaged all the passengers, one after the other, to relate their adventures; and then both she and Candide allowed that the old woman was in the right.
“It is a great pity,” said Candide, “that the sage Pangloss was hanged contrary to custom at an auto-da-fé; he would tell us most amazing things in regard to the physical and moral evils that overspread earth and sea, and I should be able, with due respect, to make a few objections.”
A beloved servant and traveling companion of Candide, Cacambo inspires much confidence. Even when Martin in his pessimism contends that a valet who is entrusted with millions in gold will betray his master, Cacambo remains trustworthy, defying such pessimism. In Chapter XIX, for instance, Candide unveils his plan to Cacambo that he take the millions and rescue Lady Cunegonde. He tells Cacambo
"If the Governor makes any difficulty, give him a million; if he will not relinquish her, give him two; as you have not killed an Inquisitor, they will have no suspicion of you; I'll get another ship, and go and wait for you at Venice; that's a free country, where there is no danger either from Bulgarians, Abares, Jews, or Inquisitors.”
Cacambo applauded this wise resolution. He despaired at parting from so good a master, who had become his intimate friend; but the pleasure of serving him prevailed over the pain of leaving him. They embraced with tears; Candide charged him not to forget the good old woman. Cacambo set out that very same day. This Cacambo was a very honest fellow.
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