Good Savage And The Bad Savage English Literature Essay

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Historically, the representation of Native Americans as well as other "uncivilized" people by European colonizers was extremely subjective. As the matter of fact, European colonizers viewed Native Americans as savages, as brutes, whom they attempted to tame to make them "good savages", whereas a priori savages were perceived as "bad" by Europeans. However, the "badness" of savages was the result of their difference from Europeans and their traditional culture, norms and beliefs. The different lifestyle, traditions and beliefs made savages bad, whereas their conditioning and adaptation to European culture, norms and beliefs was the way to make savages "good" in European eyes. Obviously, the attitude of Europeans to Native Americans was unjust and unfair that led to the violence and extinction many Native American tribes. At the same time, the main problem was the myth created by European colonizers in regard to "bad savage" and "good savage", which was deep-rooted in the consciousness of Europeans and which determined the attitude of Europeans to Native Americans. This myth is clearly represented in narratives of European travelers, such as Jacques Cartier, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, and others, who contributed to the formation of the myth on "bad savage" and "good savage" in the consciousness of Europeans.

In fact, from the beginning of European colonization of America, the native population has been represented as savages, who live in the wild and who have no idea of the civilized live. Europeans believed to be superior to Native Americans, whom they viewed as mere brutes. In this regard, it is possible to refer to narratives related to early encounters of Europeans with Native Americans in which they presented themselves as representatives of the advanced civilization, who encountered savages, who have little idea of the civilized life. To put it more precisely, they depicted the lifestyle of savages, their primitive tools and the under-developed social hierarchy, which was primitive compared to European one. As a result, they believed that Native Americans are incapable to the social development and progress. In this regard, even such progressive thinkers as John Locke were incapable to perceive Native Americans as equal or as people, who could overcome their savageness and live the life Europeans did.

However, this is exactly, where the essence of the problem of European view on Native Americans lies, because they attempted to adapt them to their own lifestyle, norms and conditions. In this regard, Jean-Jacques Rousseau made weak attempts to justify the life of Native Americans developing associations with Native Americans as people living in the wild nature, far from the civilized world, which, as Rousseau believed, corrupted individuals. Nevertheless, such views on Native Americans were eccentric and unacceptable for the majority of Europeans, who accustomed to view Native Americans as savages.

At the same time, Europeans still distinguished good and bad savages, although such distinction was quite offensive to Native Americans and, as the matter of fact, it had nothing to do with good or bad as universal terms. Instead, "good savage" and "bad savage" were terms defining the level of adaptation or obedience of Native Americans to Europeans and their cultural norms and standards. In this regard, it is possible to refer to narratives created by Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who had a significant experience of communicating with Native Americans, especially in the course of Indian Wars (Dunmore, 193). However, his experience was very specific. At any rate, he was shocked with the behavior of Indians in the course of the war, especially in relation to the defeated enemy. Obviously, Louis Antoine de Bougainville was shocked by traditions and rituals practiced by Indians in relation to enemies, which made his mind in relation to Indians as to savages, who have nothing in common with civilized people like him and other Europeans. Moreover, on witnessing practices of Indians in relation to their enemies, he refused to use them as allies in any military campaign against his enemies. At the same time, his experience had a significant impact on his views on Indians as bad savages. What is more important, he conveyed his experience to other Europeans through his narratives in which he depicted vividly all the horrors of the war and behavior of Indians he witnessed in the course of the war. As a result, he was convinced in the evil nature of Indians as bad savages, whereas his narratives contributed to the formation of the negative image of Indians in Europe.

In this regard, narratives by Jacques Cartier also contributed to the formation of the negative image of Indians as bad savages. However, Jacques Cartier had broaden views of Europeans on Indians. In fact, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Jacques Cartier acted in a treacherous and unfair way in relation to Indians at the St. Lawrence River (Cave, 195). Nevertheless, he showed that Indians were bad savages but these savages could be condition and changed in the course of the communication with Europeans. At the same time, his views on the transformation of bad savages into good ones was quite original because he insisted on the necessity of conversion of Indians in Christianity, as did many of his contemporaries and European colonizers of all times, and the adaptation of Indians to European norms and traditions (Biggar, 204). In fact, his view on good savages implied taming of bad savages as if they were inferior to Europeans, mere brutes worth taming to make the life of Europeans in colonies safe and secured (Trudel, 158). However, this view on good savages as an ideal model for Native Americans was very popular among Europeans and contributed to the formation of the superior attitude of Europeans on Native Americans as creatures, which need conditioning from the part of Europeans, who believed to be superior to them.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that European colonizers had a subjective, biased and prejudiced attitude toward Native Americans. In this regard, narratives of Jacques Cartier, Louis Antoine de Bougainville and others had a significant impact on the image of Native Americans in consciousness of Europeans. At this point, it is important to stress the fact that travelers shaped the negative image of Native Americans as bad savages. At the same time, they attempted to persuade the public that bad savages could be tamed and turned into good savages on the condition of their obedience to Europeans and following their lead blindly.