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1. Leiningen's success was attributed to his living by his motto. Is this motto true? Explain your answer.Leiningen's motto is "The human brain needs only to become fully aware of its power to conquer even the elements." (p.81) On one level, this motto is true. Mankind was created to have dominion over the earth, and God did give us the capacity to solve many problems that we face. However, at the very deepest level, this motto is false. This motto is false because it makes man the master of his fate, rather than God. It is God's grace that determines whether a man will live or die, not man's intelligence and ability to overcome the challenges that he faces.2. What various methods did Leiningen use to overcome the ants? One of the first methods that Leiningen used to block the ants was the horseshoe ditch that surrounded his plantation. This ditch was filled with water and the strength of the water could be altered by a dam connected to the river. Once the ants got to the ditch, Leiningen and his men fought them off using clods of dirt and sand and they also sprayed them with petrol. When the ants finally crossed this ditch, Leiningen and his men were able to fight off the ants using the second ditch (the inner moat), which was filled with petrol. They let the ants fill that ditch and then they set it on fire. This happened several times, but soon their supply of petrol was getting short, so Leiningen had to race to the dam and open the gate completely, flooding his entire plantation. The ants were pinned between the fire and the water, and they were destroyed in this way.3. Characterize Leiningen. What were his admirable qualities? What were his weaknesses? Does he change throughout the story?Leiningen was capable of staying calm no matter what the situation, and this ability to control his panic allowed him to think clearly when his situation got worse and worse. He was also a man that his workers trusted-- and considering their situation and how long they stayed faithful to him, this is truly impressive. Leiningen's greatest weakness was his pride and confidence in his strengths. For a large part of the story, he is overconfident, and this does not allow him to realize how truly dangerous his situation is-- early on, when the ants had retreated for the evening, he regrets that the struggle was so short, yet when he sees the stag reduced to bones in six minutes, he really starts to realize how he and his men may truly die. By the end of the story, it seems that Leiningen has somewhat realized that he is not capable of solving or escaping from any situation, yet he doesn't seem to have learned as much as he could have.4. What is the climax of the story?The climax of the story is when Leiningen must race to the dam to open the gate and then must race back to the farmhouse. It is the most exciting part of the story because he is attacked by the ants as he is running, and it's unclear whether he will survive. It's also exciting because it is clear that if he does not flood his plantation, everything in the plantation will be destroyed.5. How does Stephenson describe the ants to explain their invincibility? First of all, The Brazilian official calls the ants "an act of God" and "an elemental" which means a force of nature. Both of these terms emphasize the utter strength of the ants, as well as their ability to destroy anything in their way. The next thing that emphasizes their invincibility is the sheer size of the group: they cover 32 kilometers square! One of the most memorable scenes is when the ants first approach and everything in their path gets cut down, as if it was being "cut by a giant sickle" (83) The most dominant way that Stephenson emphasizes their invincibility is through the use of imagery that is often used when describing an army or a battle scene. Stephenson says that the ants go on "campaigns" for food (81), Leiningen prepares "measures of defence" to conquer them (81) and this army is not just any army, it is a perfect army with perfect precision and formation (83). Lastly, the invincibility of the ants is shown through how long it actually takes Leiningen to destroy them, and also by how they are only defeated once Leiningen uses two of the most powerful forces in nature (water and fire) to defeat this force of nature.10A- we will go over how suspense is sustained in 'Leiningen versus the ants" in class on Tuesday.
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