Roettger 1 Daniel Roettger Dr.

Tebbetts Exam Two Passage Number Three This passage, derived from Voltaire’s Candide, tells a fraction of the Old Woman’s story. Her life, as explained earlier in the work, was posh and elegant, as she was the daughter of a Pope. However, the murder of her fiancé, the capture of her ship, the grotesque killing of her mother (which she witnessed firsthand), and her subsequent enslavement rendered this once beautiful virgin a hideous hag. In this passage, the Old Woman recollects her first experience in captivity, in which she was searched for jewels in rather inappropriate places by more inappropriate means. This passage, as does the work as a whole, shows the attempt to conform people in spite of the individualistic mindset of the era, as well as show this process does not, after all, make for the best of all possible worlds for moral law. The efforts to conform people and quell the individualistic spirit, whether it was by inquisitors or pirates, beckon a large chunk of the work. The pirates who overtook the Old Woman’s ship began to strip their captives with great haste and vigor. After the captives were “promptly stripped as naked as monkeys,” the group in entirety, sparing no maid nor her mother, was completely searched. This strip and subsequent search, to me, symbolize the attempt by leading institutions of the time to take the ideal of individualism away from the people. By removing their clothes and whatever may lie below them, the pirates, or whoever is in control of the people, are able to remove their identity, just as thieves, according to Dante, are able to take a person’s identity. Furthermore, by using

Roettger 2 the simile “as monkeys,” Voltaire shows taking the individualism from the people demeans them more and makes them feel bestial rather than human. This search clearly shows the intentions of the pirates – they wanted their captives equally inferior and unable to hide any loot they may have. By taking the identity of the people, the pirates were able to make their captives subordinate, for they had nothing but their naked, defenseless, weak, feminine bodies. Furthermore, if the captives could hide their loot, it would impede the grafting of their captives – their literal intention – a practice the pirates surely did not want. The Old Woman, astonished by the “energy [those] gentleman put into stripping people,” found their processes a bit strange. Yet the fervor the pirates stripped their captives with only furthers my point that their goal was to remove individualism and pride while they still had control over their captives. Once again retreating to the Church example: support for the Catholic Church waned as the Protestant Reformation gained steam. Already geographically limited by the Alps to quell this anti-Catholic revolution in the North, the Popes turned to draconian measures – the Inquisition – while they could still exert their will over the land. Here, the pirates, fearing the loss of their beautiful, precious commodities, quickly removed the will and identity of their captives to establish an inferiority complex. The captors, by “sticking their fingers in a place where [they] women only admit a syringe,” continue this violating process. The Old Woman, by calling the stripping, searching, and violating measure an “international [law] that has never been questioned,” shows the process, in its brutish form, is widespread and accepted. This brutish yet socially accepted method of demeaning people detracts from Pangloss’ reasoning that this is the “best of all possible worlds,” especially for moral law.

Roettger 3 By modern standards, rape, murder, incest, and kidnapping are condemned, even by death in some places; by their standards, if God somehow, obscurely willed it, it was hunkydory. In the passage, the capture, stripping, and searching of women in their private parts is hardly part of a perfect world. Yet this practice is unquestioned and thus accepted because, to them, God created the world. And if God created the world, the Almighty must have created it with perfection in mind. Therefore, by the transitive property, the world must be perfect and all institutions thereof must be as well. This is why this barbaric practice was both tolerated and endorsed by “the genteel people who swarm the seas.” (This is my impression of Pangloss.) Furthermore, the Old Woman’s captors, “the very religious knights of Malta, never overlook[ed] this ceremony” of searching for diamonds in a person’s, well, person. Is it not appalling that, in this world that claims to be of perfect moral character, religious zealots pry their way into women’s bodies while committing thievery? From this example alone, it is clear Voltaire despises Pangloss’ lack of reason and satirically supplants it with his own. It is Voltaire’s objective to show the flaws in the reasoning that the world was perfect and all institutions thereof were perfect. Voltaire believed these institutions, including the equally barbaric Church, were imperfect and flawed. Throughout Candide, these themes are evident. In the land of Eldorado, the citizenry forfeit their individualism for a utopian civilization. However, according to Voltaire, it isn’t an Utopia because there is no people, no individualism but a nonpolar group of people in constant agreeance. In Spain, the Inquisitor kills those who challenge the authority of the Catholic Church in an effort to remove individualism from the people. The Prussian Army, in yet another example, recruits only those taller than five-

Roettger 4 feet five-inches to create physical conformity. Throughout the book, and the world, according to Voltaire, forces seek to conform the masses for order but rather than create order, the forces create calamity. For example, the Spanish Inquisition, in an effort to create religious conformity, kills all non-Catholics, creating a bloody landscape. The Muslims did the same. The Prussians, in order to govern the world, did the same by burning the Baron’s castle to take away its individualism and power, to make a power vacuum to be filled by the Prussians. All these killings do nothing to create a social law rather than, as Cacambo said, Social Darwinism. Natural law, as Rousseau suggested, creates individualistic savages, who some force sees as a threat and exterminates accordingly. In this mindless world of killing, there can be more moral code or law. The moral code, according to the passage, is the capture of women and inappropriate search of their privates. If that was truly law, what a hypocritical and unsound world we would live in. Voltaire’s intention though the passage was to discredit the ideals of those who believed individualism was the bane of civilization. Though, as I earlier stated, this message appears often and vehemently in the passage, it appears throughout the work with the same tone. Voltaire believed in individualism and believed a world lacking it would be a world of mindless, gullible zombies. If the people were to thrive, they must assert their will over authorities not though anarchy, as Martin might have suggested, but through rational reason. If we lose ourself, our individualism, what are we, Voltaire questioned. We must use reason rationally to determine moral law pursuant to our beliefs, not those of some far off hypocritical, Tartruffe-eque hierarchy.