Were there any rape or forceful sexual scenes in Candide?  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are scenes of rape and forceful sexual acts in Candide.

Voltaire was an insightful philosopher. He understood conditions of unfairness that existed in the world.  At the time, women suffered some of the worst of this treatment. Unlike the character of Pangloss, a philosopher who believes that this world is the best of all worlds, Voltaire is honest and insightful enough to recognize that it might not be the best of worlds for everyone. Voltaire understood that women's experiences in this world could challenge the idea that this world is  the best of all worlds.

Part of the reason why women experienced such difficult time was because of sexual violation.  Voltaire depicts this in an honest and brutal manner. He has to.  In order to communicate the difficulty in being a woman, displaying the way that many men treated women was essential.  It is here where there are scenes of rape and forceful sex.  It is not for the faint of heart.  For example, when Candide has to hear about what happened to his beloved Cunegonde, Pangloss gives a rather intense description with verbs such as "ripped" to describe what happened to her.  Voltaire addresses how soldiers viewed sexual conquest as entitlement.  The more force they used, the greater display of power.  

Voltaire depicts how women of the time period had to use sexual favors as a way to secure their own existence.  While men had the option of roaming the world in order to find philosophical truth, women had to survive.  Survival often meant forced sex.  Voltaire seeks to depict this reality, something that Cunegonde referred to as "the customary way of doing things." Voltaire is not sensationalist in his depiction. He is merely illuminating a reality that many women had to experience at the hands of many men.

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