Download Candide Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 8 Summary

“Cunégonde's story”

Cunégonde was asleep in her bed “when it pleased Heaven” to send the Bulgars to the castle of Thunder-Ten-Tronckh. The soldiers chopped the baron and baroness into pieces. A six-foot-tall Bulgar noticed that Cunégonde had lost consciousness at the sight of her parents’ murders and began to rape her. She suddenly regained consciousness and began to scream, bite, scratch, and struggle. In fact, she wished she could tear out the giant Bulgar’s eyes; she was unaware that everything that was happening in this castle was the “customary way of doing things.” The soldier stabbed her in the left side, and she still bears the mark. The naïve Candide says he hopes he will get to see her scar, and Cunégonde assures him he will before continuing her story.

A Bulgar captain came into her room and saw her covered with blood, but the soldier took no notice of him. Furious at this lack of respect, the captain immediately killed the soldier as he lay on top of Cunégonde. The captain had her wounds seen to and then took her to his quarters as a prisoner of war, where she laundered his shirts and cooked for him. The captain thought she was pretty, and Cunégonde admits she thought he was quite a handsome man with lovely white skin. Unfortunately, the captain was lacking in intellect and it was obvious to her that he had not been trained in the philosophy of Pangloss. After three months, he ran out of money and grew tired of Cunégonde, so he sold her to a Jew named Don Issacar.

Issacar was a trader in Holland and Portugal, and he loved women passionately. Though he desired Cunégonde, she refused to let him triumph over her. She resisted him better than the Bulgar soldier, for once an honorable woman has been raped, her honor grows stronger. When Issacar brought her to this house, Cunégonde realized that there was, indeed, a place more magnificent than the castle in which she was raised.

One day, the Grand Inquisitor noticed her at mass and sent for her. When Cunégonde arrived at his palace and told him of her heritage, he told her that belonging to an Israelite was far beneath her and sent an emissary to negotiate an arrangement whereby Issacar would cede Cunégonde to him. Issacar was a banker in the royal court and a...

(The entire section is 811 words.)