How does Voltaire feel about male and female relationships? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his parody of the optimistic philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, Voltaire savagely ridicules the romantic notions of life as Candide risks his life and goes to ridiculous ends in his pursuit of Cunegonde, committing crimes and relinquishing a perfect life in Eldorado for the sake of finding her only to finally discover that once he can actually marry Cunegonde, he no longer desires her. Therefore, there is no real romantic love between men and women. 

Candide's idea of love for Cunegonde is initially mere notion as she drops her handkerchief when they are first close and he kisses her hand as his knees tremble. For this infatuation, Candide is rendered helpless, and he builds his hopes for Cunegonde upon this infauation, declaring that he loves her --thinking that is his love is built upon a mere romantic idea. Further, Candide nurtures this idea of love as he travels. In fact, it is reinforced for him by the old woman who relates her life in Chapter XI, 

I was affianced to the most excellent Prince of Massa of Carara....I loved him as one loves for the first time--with idolatry, with transport....

This is exactly how Candide loves; he is in love with being in love. Holding to his ideal, he leaves the best of worlds in Eldorado, even killing people along the way to find Cunegonde; however, she does not fulfill this idealization of her. For, she becomes a slave and loses her beauty. Nevertheless, out of a sense of duty--

She reminded him of his promises in such a firm tone that the good Candide did not dare to refuse her.  He therefore informed the baron that he was going to marry his sister.

Candide rescues her, only to discover, tragically, that he no longer loves her since she cannot live up to his "idolatry."  But, when her brother refuses Candide, Candide determines to marry Cunegonde in a "left-handed marriage." When she grows uglier and more shrewish, and a disillusioned Candide is left wondering about the "best of worlds," he determines only that "we must cultivate our gardens."