Friday, November 30, 2012

Cannibals in both Montaigne and Voltaire

I find it interesting that in both Montaigne's commentary and Voltaire's Candide there are aspects of the cannibals. This makes me wonder whether or not there were actually cannibals in the New World at this time. According to Voltaire and Montaigne there were. In Voltaire's Candide the cannibals exhibit characteristics that are almost admirable from the stand point of human beings, as some humans do not show as much compassion as the Biglugs actually allowed Candide and Cancambo to live after they rationally figured out that the two were not Jesuits. Montaigne, in his "Of Cannibals", uses the cannibals as a point to expound upon when he discusses how human beings are essentially worse than the cannibals in that they are extremely critical of people doing things different from what they are doing. I would imagine that some form of cannibals did exist out there in the South American jungles. What do you think?


Madeline Davis said...

I'm not exactly sure if cannibals did exist throughout the world during the Enlightenment, but according to Wikipedia (very reliable, I know), cannibalism was prevalent around the world in remote areas and even continued into the 19th century. Some remote tribes are believed to practice cannibalism still today. Regardless, I think the cannibalism was the perfect metaphor for both Montaigne and Voltaire to represent the relativity of barbarism. Whether or not the cannibals actually existed didn't matter much, but in the context of the barbarism of the Europeans, the compassion and hospitality of the alleged cannibals shined in comparison.

Grant Reggio said...

If I may, I'd like to relate the auto da fe to the scene where Candide and Cacambo are about to be eaten by the Biglugs after Candide shot the two monkeys. What I wish to point out is in Cacambo's speech to the natives. He says that they eat their enemies rather than allowing the fruits of their victories go to waste to the vultures and scavengers. Here we see a much more practical use for the dead bodies of one's foes: nourishment, as opposed to the European justification for killing their enemies: valor, conquest, etc. So their is a sharp contrast between the natives and the Europeans in this respect to who is truly more savage.