Literature Week 5 Essay

Prompt: “Now that I have finished the section Montaigne, would I read any more of his essays? Why or why not?”


Montaigne certainly had a way with aphorisms. There are many skillful and wise quotes from him, the only issue is you really have to dig to find them. Montaigne tended to be a bit longwinded, sometimes ruining his own aphorisms by over explaining them. This by no means made him a bad writer, but it did make his works hard to follow. Very hard to follow at times. Because of this, personally I wont be reading any more of his works. This is only because I don’t have enough free time to examine and interpret some of Montaigne’s more oblique essays. But, for example if I were a college student studying English I would be overjoyed to find a collection of essays as detailed as Montaigne’s.

Montaigne said that he had a bad memory, but this was by no means the case. He gave so many historical examples, quotes from ancient scholars, and arguments from times long forgotten that his memory must have been as sharp as a steak knife. But, having an enormous tower solely dedicated as his own personal library may have also helped. What tends to lose readers of Montaigne is that he wasn’t well organized. Some of his essays would be pages upon pages long, while others would only be a few paragraphs. He would go into immense detail of a topic, but then cut it short and not give a proper conclusion. Unless a reader is specifically interested in seeing Montaigne’s thought process, reading a three paragraph essay and then being confronted by a forty page essay can be a little intimidating.

Montaigne was a skeptic, so much so that he was skeptic of skepticism. He believed that things such as monsters and miracles should not be held at face value, but also should not be flat up denied as false. From Montaigne’s view being open minded, but also asking questions and using logic is the only way we can evolve ourselves.

One of Montaigne’s most popular essays is named “Of Cannibalism”. It was the original idea behind the noble savage myth. It tells of a tribe of natives, the “savages” in question. They preformed mass cannibalism, but not because of hunger. They ate one another in the name of victory and glory. Because they would consume every part of their societies defeated, instead of imprisoning or torturing them (the way Europeans of the time did), Montaigne described them as more civilized and less wasteful than Europeans. This posed an existential problem on the minds of the time. Subjects like this, the way Montaigne described them, and the questions he left readers to think about are the reasons his name is still somewhat known today.

In conclusion, Montaigne was the true father of essays. His only issue is holding the readers attention through all of his long drawn out ideas. But if you are looking for a detailed example of a mans passion, and the ideas he was able to record throughout his lifetime; than Montaigne’s essays may be a perfect fit.


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