Chapter 3 takes place in the midst of a giant battle between the Bulgars and the Abares. While writing this, Voltaire was probably considering the Seven Years' War (1756-63), which was fought between the French (Abares) and the Prussians (Bulgars). Here, Voltaire's anti-war sentiments become obvious. Casually describing the thousands of dead soldiers on both sides, Voltaire underscores how wasteful these "heroes" are of human life.
Candide, his protagonist, hides, doing his best to keep away from the needless bloodshed and "heroic butchery." After the battle subsides, he escapes through the battlefield, seeing the "scattered brains and severed limbs" that "littered the ground." Soon reaching the country of Holland, where he believes everyone is wealthy and Christian, he expects to be treated very well. He stumbles across a Protestant preacher of sorts who is lecturing on the topic of charity. Ironically, when the man sees Candide, he attacks the traveler, telling him that he doesn't deserve any bread. Voltaire, thus, also indicts religion (particularly radical Protestantism in this chapter), which he believed was often hypocritical.
Luckily, a man names Jacques befriends Candide, offering him food and shelter. Candide is elated that such fortune has found him, and he regains his confidence in Pangloss' philosophy. All seems to be well again.
Soon thereafter, Candide takes a walk through the town when he meets a "ghastly beggar" who reveals to his pupil that he is Pangloss. Candide is shocked and horrified to see his teacher in such a state, but immediately asks about his beloved Cunégonde. When Pangloss explains that she has been killed, Candide passes out. Upon awakening, he muses, "Ah, best of worlds, what's become of you now?" Obviously, Candide's belief in Pangloss' optimistic philosophy is waning, as Voltaire continues his ruthless indictment of Leibniz, Pope and others.
Pangloss, next, begins to explain the events, including the murder of Cunégonde, that occurred at the castle after Candide had been thrown out. He says that the beautiful Cunégonde was brutally and repeatedly raped by Bulgar soldiers who attacked the family fortress, finally killing both Cunégonde and the rest of her family before destroying the castle. Yet it seems the Abares were no less hostile to their enemies, as Pangloss notes their similar treatment of a nearby Bulgar castle.
Hearing this, Candide attempts to understand such seemingly needless suffering by asking his teacher about the "cause and effect" and the "sufficient reason" for such tragedies, specifically his own sorry state. Pangloss masterfully crafts a brilliant explanation of his disease, which he explains was sexually transmitted from the servant girl, Paquette, to whom the reader may recall he gave "physics lessons" in the opening scene. The doctor gives a detailed, yet brief account of the STD's path, explaining how it transcended through a Franciscan, and Jesuit, and even through the men of Christopher Columbus himself, who received it from the New World natives. The devil, however, isn't at the root of such a mess, Pangloss asserts, because such suffering is only a small aspect of a larger good. For example, if Columbus had never sailed to America, chocolate wouldn't exist to tantalize the taste buds of cultured Europeans.
Fortunately for Pangloss, Jacques, the "charitable anabaptist," pays to cure the teacher of his disease, though the philosopher loses one eye and one ear in the process. When Jacques confronts Pangloss' systemic philosophy, however, he responds, ".private misfortunes make for public welfare."