5. Rousseau 119
Chapter Five Rousseau I have seen those vast unfortunate regions that only seem to be destined to cover the earth with herds of slaves. From their sordid sight I have averted my eyes with dis- dain, horror and pity; and, seeing one fourth of my fellow humans changed into beasts for the service of others, I have grieved to be a man.1 —Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie, or the New Heloise (1761) In the epigraph above, Rousseau combines his masterful skill as a fluid, seduc- tive novelist with his political agenda. The landscape that he paints is truly an iconic representation of his belief system that “man is born free, but that eve- rywhere he is in chains.” In a few lines, the reader visualizes the landscape covered with wretched slaves as if he were standing on a hill gazing at the panorama below. He is provided with an iconic representation of men who have left the simple virtues of living in the countryside to be exploited by decadent civilization. Rousseau’s literary style is flowing and seductive. His long, sinuous, elegant sentences, like ocean waves, carry the reader’s emotions where he dictates. The panorama he paints stirs a deep, involuntary emotional response from the reader. Rousseau’s objectives are to attack the institutions of slavery and also of private property. He believed that the notions of slavery and private property did not exist in natural man: it was not until men left the woods to join civiliza- tion that they developed the notions...
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