In the exposition of Stephenson's narrative when the District Commissioner comes to warn the coffee plantation owner, he tells Leiningen about the ants,
"Leiningen!...You're insane! They're not creatures you can fight--they're an elemental--'an act of God'! ten miles ong, two miles wide--....And every single one of them a fiend from hell....
These "fiends" can eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones, he continues, and he warns Leiningen that he does not flee, he, too, will be picked to the bone. But, the dauntless Leiningen is not frightened, for he has fought the tyrannies of nature before, having endured floods, plagues, and other "acts of God." For, he feels that the human brain is superior and if its powers are used, the elements of nature can be conquered.