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Dr. Pangloss

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Dr. Pangloss-ing It Over

Dr. Pangloss, like the majority of the main characters in Candide, symbolizes an ideology and a way of life—Voltaire is being snarkier than Stephen Colbert here.

Pangloss’s absolute Optimism is a mockery of the philosophy of an Enlightenment thinker named Leibniz. Despite all of his personal misfortunes and the immense suffering he observes around him, Pangloss irrationally insists that all evil in the world is necessary and ultimately for the best:

Half dead of that inconceivable anguish which the rolling of a ship produces, one-half of the passengers were not even sensible of the danger. [...] The Anabaptist being upon deck bore a hand; when a brutish sailor struck him roughly and laid him sprawling; but with the violence of the blow he himself tumbled head foremost overboard, and stuck upon a piece of the broken mast. [...] Candide drew near and saw his benefactor, who rose above the water one moment and was then swallowed up for ever. He was just going to jump after him, but was prevented by the philosopher Pangloss, who demonstrated to him that the Bay of Lisbon had been made on purpose for the Anabaptist to be drowned. (5.1)

He's basically pulling a three-year-old move and sticking his fingers in his ears and saying "Nyah nyah nyah! I can't hear you!"

The word "pangloss" in Greek literally means "all tongue," so you know from the first time you meet him that he is a guy who can’t stop talking. Dr. Pangloss endlessly philosophizes, offering rambling lectures or contrived defenses of his beliefs even at moments of crisis. (For more information, head to our "Character Analysis" section.)

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