What is the old woman's story in Candide?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Candide  first meets the old woman at the end of chapter 6. The two are in Lisbon, where there has been a devastating earthquake. The city and church leaders decide that God must be punishing them and that an auto de fe, or act of faith, is required for atonement....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Candide first meets the old woman at the end of chapter 6. The two are in Lisbon, where there has been a devastating earthquake. The city and church leaders decide that God must be punishing them and that an auto de fe, or act of faith, is required for atonement. This consists of being flogged in time to music, of burning people at the stake, and other "cleansing" acts. As he is being flogged, Candide sees the old woman, who gestures for him to follow her. She takes him to her shelter, cleans and dresses his wounds, and cares for him.

In chapter 11, Candide learns that the woman is the illegitimate daughter of Pope Urban X and a princess of Palestina. When she was young, she was very beautiful, and she was betrothed to the prince of Massa-Carrarra. Unfortunately, just before the wedding could take place, the prince was poisoned by his jealous mistress. The old woman's mother decided to take her daughter to one of their estates, but on the way there, their ship was attacked by pirates. She had many misadventures and troubles in her life before ending up in Lisbon.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team