Chateaubriand's 'Atala': An Analysis

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In his short novel Atala, Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand imagines the doomed love between two Native Americans whose personalities and behavior are deeply influenced by European culture and religion, albeit for slightly different reasons. Chateaubriand's novel takes a strong position on the side of religion (and particularly Christian religion) as a calming, moderating force in opposition to the wild savagery of nature, and by extension, Native American culture. By examining the scene in which Atala and Chactas are effectively "rescued" from both their own desire and the ravages of the storm by the missionary Pere Aubry alongside the circumstances of Atala's death, one is able to see how Chateaubriand contrasts what he perceives as the moderating, comforting character of Christianity with the seemingly violent, reckless nature of Native American society and belief. In particular, Chateaubriand effectively adapts a common Christian trope regarding the dangers of human sexuality to instead make the case that Native American society is inferior and ultimately destructive. To begin it is necessary to acknowledge that Chateaubriand's portrayal of Native Americans is at best problematic and at worst overtly racist, because accepting this is a necessary prerequisite for understanding the statement the novel is making regarding the supremacy of European culture in general and the Christian religion in particular. This is important to point out right away because the goal of this

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