Candide’s attempt to acquire a companion for his voyage reveals the futility of trying to compensate someone for misery and suffering. There are so many miserable people in the world that giving away a little bit of money does virtually nothing to reduce this overall misery. Voltaire implies that the basis for misery is the social structure itself, which needs to be changed before any real compensation can occur.
Candide’s new pessimism also owes something to his conversation with the slave whom he encounters on the road to Surinam. Voltaire illustrates social injustice and systematic cruelty many times in the novel. However, many of these situations, such as Candide’s conscription into the Bulgar army and the consumption of the old woman’s buttock, are exaggerated, absurd, or even comical. The slave’s life story, on the other hand, is quite realistic and has no element of humor to it. In dealing with slavery, Voltaire comes up against an evil so powerful that even his considerable satiric wit cannot make light of it.