Atala by Chateaubriand Analysis
From the start of the 1760s to the end of the 1910s, Europeans began expanding their territories outside of Europe, into new uncharted lands. Countries like Britain, France, and Spain all slowly assembled colonies in places such as the Americas. With these uncharted lands came new people and races, such as Native Americans and Africans. Europeans were startled and a variety of views and opinions sprung about. Many Europeans became extremely fascinated with the non-European culture and used literature and art to express their ideas. Some groups even became understanding of non-European culture and expressed compassion towards them. However, The majority of Europeans believed in a much more austere ideology. They believed that non-Europeans were an asset and that their only purpose was to serve Europeans. From 1760 to 1910, intellectual thought surrounding non-Europeans cultures developed into three main groups; Europeans who drew inspiration from noneuropeans, who sympathized with them, and the majority who believed they were superior.
Around the time of the 1760s, many European countries were growing on the backs of imperialism and their colonies. Specifically, new stakes in the Americas began to expand largely such as the British, French, and the Spanish. These new colonies led to cultural diffusion to occur between the Americas and Europe. This sparked the new motivation for creative laborers such as writers and painters. For example, a painting by Paul Gauguin portrays the relationship between a European and two Polynesian women. (Doc 5) This painting shows the differences between the Europeans and Non-Europeans at the same time, attesting to the savagery of the non-Europeans. The Polynesian women are painted only half-clothed, while the European man is shown in full attire. This demonstrates the clear difference in materialistic wealth between the two sides. Gaugin seemed to be using painting as an outlet to describe the differences between Europeans and non-Europeans. In addition, some writers also found inspiration in these new cultures. In Atala, a story written by a French writer, the idea progression of Europeans' views on non-Europeans is demonstrated. (Doc 3) The writer chooses to portray the relationship between a Native American and a Spaniard, in a positive manner. This contrasts with Gaugin, as he chose to illustrate Non-Europeans in a negative light. Though both artists created works about Non-Europeans, they both shared different perspectives, demonstrating the variety of views surrounding non-Europeans at the time.
After discovering the new people in the Americas, some Europeans disagreed with the common thought that Native Americans were savages. They challenged popular opinion and sympathized with the indigenous people. Europeans began to understand the cultural differences between themselves and the indigenous people. In an account from a British soldier named William Smith, he realized that Native Americans were not all that different from Europeans. (Doc 1) Smith began to see Native Americans not as savages, but more so as people misguided by their education. This idea was shared by a sum of Europeans and displayed the progression of European views on non-European culture. Beyond that, many more Europeans began understanding the situation faced by non-Europeans. In a ceramic medallion titled, “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” by Josiah Wedgwood, it is clear to see the slave that is depicted is begging for a better life. (Doc 2) From the title itself, it is evident that Wedgwood was concerned with the treatment of slaves before its abolition in the American colonies. He was not alone in that belief, as many Europeans rose up against the mistreatment of slaves and other races within the American colonies. People such as Fredrick Douglas and John Brown fought for the rights of African-Americans until slavery was eventually banned. Europeans began understanding the idea of all people being equal, regardless of race or skin tone.
Unlike Smith and Wedgwood, the majority of Europeans shared a much darker view about non-Europeans. They believed in the idea of white man’s duty, or the belief of Europeans to rule over all non-Europeans and educate them was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. In a speech given by the former prime minister of France, Jules Ferry, he described the white man’s duty, especially how it applied to France. (Doc 4) Ferry detailed how superior races, such as the French, have an innate duty to teach inferior races their way of life and make them serve France. He adds that this idea has been misinterpreted in the past, and the French will rectify this error. This misunderstanding that Ferry is talking about is the introduction of slavery within the Americas. White man’s duty is not necessarily to enslave non-Europeans but to teach them about European culture. Europeans are superior to non-Europeans, and they must exercise their power over them to help them grow and succeed. In an essay written by a German physician, Wilhelm Schallmayer, this idea is present. (Doc 6) Schollmeyer discusses the results of competition between nations, and how this can lead to the demise of other races. He notably brings up Native Americas and says that they could have only lived if they were never discovered by the Europeans. The competition between nations makes the eradication of some races almost inevitable, which is why the white men must rule over and teach non-Europeans. However, the only reason that Europeans would help non-Europeans, is if they had something to gain for themselves. British General, Evelyn Baring proposed this idea while describing British and Egyptian relations. (Doc 7) He describes that the British only helped the Egyptians because they are able to absorb and carry on the British culture. Baring adds that the Egyptians could not think for themselves, and the British are the ones giving Egyptians a purpose and reason not to be enslaved or killed. This was essentially the view shared by the majority of Europeans, which was to rule over non-Europeans, and teach them how to live according to European standards.
To conclude, a variety of Europeans shared different thoughts about non-European cultures. Most Europeans maintained their sense of pride and thought they were superior to the non-Europeans. However, some Europeans were more compassionate and sympathized with their situation. Others drew creative inspiration from non-European cultures and created works of literature and art to reflect their ideas. This era of foreign influence on Europeans culminated in some harsh ideologies such as racism and slavery. These problems have since decreased dramatically as people realized the injustices of these ideas. Still, much of the stigma around certain races still occurs today, and many cultures face severe hatred and racism. It is of utmost importance that everyone is treated equally and fairly in today’s world.