Study Guide

Candide Chapter 12

By Voltaire

Chapter 12

  • The woman’s response to the Italian man? "You think not having balls is bad? Wait until you hear my life story." Then she tells it to him.
  • She passes out and he carries her to his little cottage, where she finds out that 1) he was made a eunuch as a child so as to keep his lovely high-pitched voice, and 2) he used to be her tutor when she was a little girl.
  • The man promises to take her to Italy, but instead he betrays her and sells her to the governor of Algiers to join his harem.
  • In Algiers, the woman catches the plague.
  • Although almost everyone else dies, she manages to recover. After being sold several more times, she ends up in the hands of the captain of the Sultan’s guard, who is battling Russians.
  • The captain keeps her in his harem, which is fine until the Russians decided to starve out the harem.
  • The guys defending the harem get pretty hungry by lunchtime, and since they can’t abandon their post, they decide to eat some of the people in the harem.
  • They eat the eunuchs, but that’s just an appetizer. So they move on to the women, except someone convinces them to just eat one buttock from each woman.
  • Right about then, the Russians bust in and kill all the cannibalistic guards.
  • The Russians sell the woman to a Russian nobleman who badly mistreats her. She works as a gardener.
  • Ultimately, she escapes and finds employment as a servant.
  • This marks the end of the Old Woman’s life story.
  • Although she has suffered substantially, the Old Woman still feels "fond of life."
  • She does offer the challenge, though, that if anyone can best her in competition for the "My Life Sucks the Most Award," she will throw herself into the sea.