Candide and Pangloss Characters and Relationship Analysis

Candide and Pangloss Characters and Relationship Analysis

Although a well-known novel Candide ou l’Optimisme was written by Voltaire about three hundred years ago, it still holds an impressive relevance at present. In this work, the writer brilliantly combined the traditional literary genre, which reveals the cardinal questions of life, and various philosophical doctrines. Candide and Pangloss are the main characters of the novel whose relationship demonstrates the evolution of human consciousness. As a mentor, Pangloss proves to be highly influential, with the ability to make a significant impact on Candide’s perspectives and opinions. The development of the relationship between Candide and Pangloss demonstrates human progress in the search for absolute truth and the philosophical meaning of life.

The Mentor-Mentee Relationship between Candide and Pangloss

Voltaire introduces Pangloss as the mentor and tutor of Candide at the beginning of the story. The mentor-mentee relationship reveals the significance of Pangloss in imparting knowledge to Candide. The reader learns that Candide receives instructions regarding the philosophy of optimism, as well as the rules of the world, from his teacher. For instance, Pangloss introduces Candide to the sovereign creator and his ultimate purpose (Ducretet & Ducretet-Powell, 2017). Specifically, Pangloss emphasizes the basis of optimism and ties it closely to the grand plan and the purpose of the creator (Voltaire, 1990). In this context, Candide serves as a blank book waiting for a script from the author. Due to the young age, Candide’s mind is flexible and inclined to adopt to the worldview of his mentor. The character admires his teacher and perceives his optimistic convictions to be the ultimate truth (Ducretet & Ducretet-Powell, 2017). These attributes make it easier for the mentor to lead his student through a significant introduction to his philosophy (Ducretet & Ducretet-Powell, 2017). Thus, at the beginning of their relationship, Pangloss exemplifies an influential and authoritative teacher, while Candide is a devoted learner.

The Development of the Relationship into Friendship

When Candide becomes an adult, his relationship with Pangloss transforms into a deep friendship based on the same philosophical worldview, support, and trust. For instance, as a close companion, Pangloss is aware of his mentee’s feelings for the Baron’s daughter. He supports their attachment to each other despite the fact that their union is socially unequal: “It was love; love, the comfort of the human species” (Voltaire, 1990, p. 9). When Candide is expelled from the castle for the affair with his lover, the mentor uses optimistic beliefs to support the student in his misfortune. During their journey, the characters embark on different ventures, starting to discover the real world and its challenges. Although many of Candide’s experiences about life are cruel and unfair, Pangloss uses his supremacy to convince the mentee in the opposite, thus shaping his opinion according to his own optimistic convictions (Adams, 2019). At the beginning of their journey, the relationship of the characters changes into the close companionship because the impact of the teacher is strong, and the student’s mind is submissive to his authority.

As the plot unfolds, the author pays attention to establishing meaningful interaction between the two characters to demonstrate the evolution of their relationship. When Candide experiences serious injuries, Pangloss proves to be his trusted friend and caregiver. For instance, the teacher ensures that he will provide the student with water and continued encouragement until he gets better (Voltaire, 1990). Such empathy demonstrates that their relationship has evolved from the mentor and mentee concept to close friends that care for each other. In addition, Pangloss knows that the death of Jacques has affected Candide adversely and takes the time to provide him with the moral support to overcome the grief (Ioannou & Malafantis, 2019). The teacher’s continued presence demonstrates a sense of loyalty to his former student, at the same time proving that their companionship is based on care, encouragement, and tolerance.

In the end, both characters obtain equal status in their relationship when Candide has an opportunity to repay Pangloss’ kindness. For instance, when Pangloss suffers from misfortunes that make him disabled and eventually enslaved in Turkey, his former student opts to purchase the freedom for the mentor (Voltaire, 1990). The decision to emancipate Pangloss reinforces the close friendship and demonstrates the maturity of Candide’s actions. Moreover, the character provides a permanent residence for Pangloss, revealing his loyalty and desire to help. In this context, the author gives Candide a higher position in the relationship because he possesses the power and resources to set the teacher free and save his life from misery (Ioannou & Malafantis, 2019). Pangloss admits the shift of authority in their relationship by expressing gratitude for the liberation: “The latter threw himself at the feet of his deliverer, and bathed them with his tears” (Voltaire, 1990, p. 89). The mentor’s action proves the genuine appreciation of Candide’s kindness and empathy, demonstrating the depth of their friendship. The relationship between the two characters has undergone the significant evolution, now that they can regard each other as true friends.

The Influence of Pangloss’ Philosophy on Candide’s Worldview

Being young and naïve, Candide never expressed doubts in his mentor’s optimistic philosophy, although it was absurd in many situations they experienced. As the character grows up and their friendship with Pangloss evolves, the man expresses doubts about the correctness of the mentor’s perceptions and positive worldview. For example, the situation with the earthquake shocked the main character and made him wonder about the nature of evil (Voltaire, 1990). As a result, the frustrated Candide concluded that the evil was completely random in nature. Moreover, he could not believe that such a catastrophe could happen in the best world. Thus, the earthquake prompted Candide to question the philosophy of optimism, as his teacher declared that this world was the best of all possible.

To conclude, Voltaire’s novel pays attention to the evolving companionship between Candide and Pangloss and its transformation from the mentor-mentee relationship to a real friendship. At the beginning of the story, Pangloss serves as the tutor to Candide and uses his authority to impose his optimistic philosophy on the student’s worldview. However, as the relationship develops, the teacher demonstrates his loyalty and commitment by supporting the companion in his suffering and misfortunes. On the other hand, Candide takes action to liberate Pangloss from slavery in Turkey, which obligates the teacher to express sincere gratitude to the student. Evolution in the interactions between the characters demonstrates growing friendship that explains the reasons for their sacrifices for each other. In addition, Candide gains his own vision of life and genuine truth after he stops perceiving Pangloss as his mentor. Being in an equal relationship with the teacher, the main hero questions the correctness of optimistic philosophy and develops his own perceptions of the world.


Adams, S. (2019). Irony, contradiction, and Voltaire’s garden: Re-reading Candide. Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research, 5, 8-11.

Ducretet, P. & Ducretet-Powell, M. (2017). Voltaire’s Candide: Etude quantitative. University of Toronto Press.

Ioannou, A. X., & Malafantis, K. D. (2019). The contribution of the literary works of François Fénelon ‘The adventures of Telemachus, son of Ulysses’ and of Voltaire ‘Candide’, to the cultivation of humanitarian awareness. Pedagogical Research, 4(4), 1-10.

Voltaire, F. (1990). Candide and other stories. R. Pearson, Trans. Oxford University Press.

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