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Brazilians in Michel de Montaigne's Essay Of Cannibals
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Brazilians in Michel de Montaigne's Essay "Of Cannibals"
When describing native Brazilian people in his 1580 essay, “Of Cannibals,” Michel de Montaigne states, “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 ours” (158). Montaigne doesn’t always maintain this “amazing” 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…show more content…
Another salient quality of the Brazilian “other,” according to Montaigne, is that “[t]hey are not fighting for the conquest of new lands, for they still enjoy that natural abundance that provides them without toil and trouble with all necessary things in such profusion that they have no wish to enlarge their boundaries” (156). Montaigne notes that in contrast, the Europeans have an insatiable appetite for the discovery and acquisition of new lands; he says, “I am afraid we have eyes bigger than our stomachs…and more curiosity” (150). Montaigne again uses this distinction to elevate the Brazilians above the Europeans; he asserts that the Brazilians’ “warfare is wholly noble and generous,” while Europeans “win enough advantages over [their] enemies that are borrowed advantages, not really [their] own” (156-157). The Europeans are inferior because they’re neither noble nor generous, and they don’t possess “that great thing, the knowledge of how to enjoy their condition happily and be content with it” (156).
After establishing an “amazing” distance between Brazilians and Europeans, and elevating the former over the latter, Montaigne works to decrease the distance between the two groups and decrease the level of elevation that Brazilians