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by Voltaire

The Old Woman Timeline and Summary

  • The Old Woman cares for Candide after he is lashed in Lisbon and reunites him with Cunégonde.
  • After Candide kills both of Cunégonde’s owners, the Old Woman thinks fast and helps Candide and Cunégonde escape to a country inn.
  • We find out that she only has one buttock.
  • The Old Woman departs with Candide and Cunégonde for Buenos Aires.
  • Aboard the ship, the Old Woman tells her life story.
  • She explains that she is the daughter of Pope Urban X and of the Princess of Palestrina.
  • As a young woman, she was very beautiful.
  • She was briefly married, but her husband died.
  • The Old Woman and her mother set sail for a vacation estate, but on the way, Moorish pirates captured their boat. She, her mother, and all of their servants were strip-searched and raped.
  • When the ship arrived in Morocco, they found that the country was embroiled in conflict. She and her mother were fought over by countless men. Ultimately, everyone was killed and she alone remained.
  • She passed out and only awoke when she felt someone moving over her and speaking her native language, Italian.
  • The woman recounted her misfortunes to the man, a eunuch who had been her tutor as a child, and he took her to his home where he cared for her. The man then promised to take the woman to Italy, but instead he betrayed her and sold her to the governor or Algiers. There, she was employed in his harem.
  • In Algiers, the woman caught the plague.
  • Although almost everyone else died, she managed to recover. After being sold several more times, she ended up in the hands of the captain of the Sultan’s guard. The Sultan and his men were fighting against the Russians.
  • The woman was kept in his harem until the Russians decided to starve the harem out. Unable to leave their post to find food, the guards ate two eunuchs and one buttock of each woman in the harem.
  • The woman was later sold to a Russian nobleman who badly mistreated her. Under his ownership, she worked as a gardener.
  • Ultimately, she was able to escape and has since been employed as a servant.
  • Although she suffered substantially, the Old Woman tells Candide and Cunégonde that she remains in love with life.
  • In Buenos Aires, she advises Cunégonde to marry the Governor for financial reasons, and encourages Candide to leave in order to evade prosecution for killing the Inquisitor.
  • The Old Woman remains with Cunégonde.
  • Years later, Candide finds the Old Woman with Cunégonde in Turkey.
  • Candide buys the Old Woman’s freedom and she moves onto the farm that he purchases.
  • She suspects boredom might be worse than all of the painful adventures she’s suffered. Therefore, it is boredom that she works to avoid.