Montaigne on the limitations of the interpreter
Jamie Effros, English 171, Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists, Brown University, 2002
At the end of "Of Cannibals," Montaigne makes a final stab at the role of the interpreter, deeming him an interpreter of events, and as such in a position of profound power.
I had a very long talk with one of them: but I had an interpreter who followed my meaning so badly, and who was so hindered by his stupidity in taking in my ideas, that I could get hardly any satisfaction from the man. When I asked him what profit he gained fro his superior position among his people (for he was a captain, and our sailors called him king), he told me that it was to march foremost in war.
- How does this final commentary on the interpreter's position (and similarly Montaigne's as a journalist) shift the tone of the piece in its entirety?
- What subjective view does Montaigne settle upon in his discussion of the barbarians? Does it change throughout the piece? If so, what does that change achieve in the discourse?
- How does Montaigne build what seems to be a collection of observations, lore, and factual analysis into a satirical commentary?
Last modified 6 February 2002