Thursday, October 24, 2019
Brazilians in Michel de Montaignes Essay Of Cannibals -- Montaigne Es
Brazilians in Michel de Montaigne's Essay "Of Cannibals" When describing native Brazilian people in his 1580 essay, Ã¢â¬Å"Of Cannibals,Ã¢â¬ Michel de Montaigne states, Ã¢â¬Å"Truly here are real savages by our standards; for either they must be thoroughly so, or we must be; there is an amazing distance between their character and oursÃ¢â¬ (158). Montaigne doesnÃ¢â¬â¢t always maintain this Ã¢â¬Å"amazingÃ¢â¬ distance, however, between savages and non-savages or between Brazilians and Europeans; he first portrays Brazilians as non-barbaric people who are not like Europeans, then as non-barbarians who best embody traditional European values, and finally as barbarians who are diametrically opposed to Europeans. First, Montaigne portrays Brazilians as non-barbaric people who are not like Europeans. He asserts, Ã¢â¬Å"I think there is nothing barbarous and savage in that nationÃ¢â¬ ¦except that each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practiceÃ¢â¬ (152). Through his discussion of certain salient qualities that define these Ã¢â¬Å"other,Ã¢â¬ non-barbaric, Brazilian people, Montaigne actually elevates the Brazilians above Europeans. For example, he writes, Ã¢â¬Å"Those [Brazilian] people are wild, just as we call wild the fruits that Nature has produced by herself and in her normal course; whereas really it is those that we have changed artificially and led astray from the common order, that we should rather call wildÃ¢â¬ (152). After likening wild Brazilians to wild fruits, he implies that they both Ã¢â¬Å"retain alive and vigorous their genuine, their most useful and natural, virtues and properties, which we have debased in the [artificial fruits] in adapting them to gratify our corrupted tasteÃ¢â¬ (152). For Montaigne, wildness and natural virtues are characteristics that are u... ...s the superiority of the former to the latter; in the second case, he greatly decreases the distance between the two groups and the level of superiority that Brazilians have over Europeans. Finally, his essay, as a whole, ultimately reinstates a great distance between the two groups, and Europeans reclaim superiority over Brazilians. Notably, in the first two cases, nature is also elevated above art, but art finally subjugates nature. Perhaps this is because Montaigne identifies with Ã¢â¬Å"Lycurgus and PlatoÃ¢â¬ ¦ [who] could [not] believe that our society could be maintained with so little artifice and human solderÃ¢â¬ (153). MontaigneÃ¢â¬â¢s essay suggests that he relies on the artifice of his writing and interpretations to explore and define social groups, explore and establish social hierarchies, and maintain social order in a manner that ultimately favors him and his people.