The character of Pangloss

Pangloss (the name means all tongue) is Candide’s teacher, to whose view of life Candide adheres at first without question, but which he later recognises to be totally at variance with his personal experiences.

The role of Pangloss in the book

(1) Pangloss and philosophical Optimism

Through the character of Pangloss, Voltaire is satirising the views of the Optimistic philosophers and ridicules their jargon and their concepts as they were popularly understood. Chapter 1 page 56:
il prouvait admirablement qu'il n'y a point d'effet sans cause, et que, dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles, le château de monseigneur le baron était le plus beau des châteaux, et madame la meilleure des baronnes possibles.
il est démontré, disait-il, que les choses ne peuvent être autrement: car tout étant fait pour une fin, tout est nécessairement pour la meilleure fin.

Voltaire mocks their a priori arguments (using conclusions as the starting points of their reasoning).
Chapter one Page 56
Remarquez bien que les nez ont été faits pour porter des lunettes; aussi avons-nous des lunettes. Les jambes sont visiblement instituées pour être chaussées, et nous avons des chausses

Pangloss lengthy abstract reasoning and the situations where he launches into it demonstrates the futility of metaphysical speculation.  For example as Candide lies injured after the Lisbon earth quake, Pangloss offers only irrelevant words:
«Hélas! procure-moi un peu de vin et d'huile; je meurs.
« Ce tremblement de terre n'est pas une chose nouvelle, répondit Pangloss; la ville de Lima éprouva les mêmes secousses en Amérique l'année passée; mêmes causes, mêmes effets 
While he is chained in the galley next to the Baron, he insists on arguing philosophy even though this gets both of them a beating.

Pangloss's theory and behaviour shows how the optimistic philosophy leads to a fatalistic attitude to life.  He prevents Candide from trying to dive in to save the Anabaptist.  Chapter 5 page 66:
Page 66 - Pangloss l'en empêche, en lui prouvant que la rade de Lisbonne avait été formée exprès pour que cet anabaptiste s'y noyât.
He had the same message of hopeless acceptance to those who were lying injured and suffering amid the ruins of Lisbon. Chapter 5 page67
…. Pangloss les consola, en les assurant que les choses ne pouvaient être autrement:
«Car, dit-il, tout ceci est ce qu'il y a de mieux; car s'il y a un volcan à Lisbonne, il ne pouvait être ailleurs; car il est impossible que les choses ne soient pas où elles sont; car tout est bien.

(2) The sufferings of mankind demonstrated in the excessive hardships of Pangloss
The life story at Pangloss demonstrates the hardships and sufferings of mankind.
He gets the pox.  He is covered in sores, blind, spitting teeth when he speaks. He loses one eye and an ear
Natural disasters
He goes through a violent storm at sea followed by a shipwreck.  Having escaped with his life and reached land with Candide he lives through the massive earthquake of Lisbon.
He suffers extremes of human cruelty .  The Holy Inquisition.  Brutal slavery on the galleys
Indiscreet in his talk in Lisbon and Mark he is arrested by the Inquisition and is publicly hanged after which his body is sold to a Lisbon doctor for dissection and he regains consciousness while he is being cut open.

Having regained his freedom, he is convicted for attempting to seduce a young girl and becomes the galley slave, suffering regular thrashings.

All these events demonstrate with glorious irony how inaccurate is his teaching that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Voltaire wishes Pangloss to represent the stubborn blindness of optimistic philosophers.
Even at the end, he compute refuses to consider the possibility of being wrong.
Chapter 29 page 144:
« Je suis toujours de mon premier sentiment, répondit Pangloss; car enfin je suis philosophe: il ne me convient pas de me dédire, Leibnitz ne pouvant pas avoir tort, et l'harmonie préétablie étant  d'ailleurs la plus belle chose du monde, aussi bien que le plein et la matière subtile.»

(3) Pangloss and Rousseau
In the Character of Pangloss, Voltaire is satirising also the character and philosophy of Rousseau.

Pangloss has the lechery that Voltaire attributes to Rousseau.  While employed as a tutor in the Baron’s château, Pangloss takes the chambermaid, Paquette, into the bushes to make love.

After escaping with his life from the clutches of the Inquisition, Pangloss went to Constantinople where he fell foul of the authorities when he tried- harmlessly he said - to put his hand down the dress of a very attractive young girl,

Pangloss taught like Rousseau that property is theft. 
When a Franciscan friar stole all Cunégonde’s money and jewels, as he and Cunégonde and the old woman were escaping to Cadiz, Candide referred to these teachings of Pangloss,  saying that Pangloss had always taught that the things of the earth were the property of all men, but the Franciscan should therefore have left them a share.

The noble savage.  Pangloss shared Rousseau faith that human beings in their natural habitat were noble and good.  Candide has doubts about Pangloss’s teaching on this subject when the cannibals are about to eat him and Cacambo, but feels that Pangloss is vindicated when the natives free them later. Chapter 16 Page 96
Page 96 - Mais, après tout, la pure nature est bonne, puisque ces gens-ci, au lieu de me manger, m'ont fait mille honnêtetés dès qu'ils ont su que je n'étais pas jésuite 

Conclusion Pangloss is a fine satirical character who takes the reader through many entertaining and grotesque adventures. With him Voltaire created one of the most memorable characters of world literature.  It is the name to which people refer the world over when describing  a person whose life is led in a spirit of blind, stubborn, precarious optimism.

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