In Candide, why does the old woman cling to life even though she is miserable?
After Candide is flogged in Chapter 6, an old woman cares for him. While with Candide in Chapter 11, she tells him her miserable story of being captured along with her mother, her mother's killing, and her desperate escape from death. After reflecting upon her lost happiness and beauty, she remarks, "I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one's very being and yet to hold it fast...?"
This is yet another satiric portrayal by Voltaire. The senseless optimism of his contemporaries is ridiculed in this character of the old hag who was once a beautiful, content princess. And, the human condition of foolishly clinging to all one knows, although "melancholy" and miserable, is also a trait of those who believe that all "happens for a reason" and life must go on as the Optimists proclaimed.
http://www.enotes.com/Candide/character/Princess of Palenstrina