How do the Indians act out of character for them in "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Carl Stephenson's "Leiningen Versus the Ants" is set in the jungle wilderness of Brazil, where Leiningen has established a plantation. Leiningen is a planter, so of course he needs workers, native Brazilian Indians.

The Brazilian District Commissioner tries to warn Leiningen that the ants are coming. These are not ordinary ants but something the man calls an "act of God," and he is terrified because he has seen them before and knows the devastation the ants cause. Leiningen, however, is unmoved by the news and plans to stay on his Brazilian wilderness plantation. He does send the women and children away, but he has established a series of safeguards which he is confident will serve to protect him and his holdings from the marauding creatures. 

That night he does tell his workers about the approaching ants, for he wants to be sure they hear the news from him rather than from another source and begin to panic. 

Most of them had been born in the district; the cry "The ants are coming!'" was to them an imperative signal for instant, panic-stricken flight, a spring for life itself. But so great was the Indians' trust in Leiningen, in Leiningen's word, and in Leiningen's wisdom, that they received his curt tidings, and his orders for the imminent struggle, with the calmness with which they were given. They waited, unafraid, alert, as if for the beginning of a new game or hunt which he had just described to them. The ants were indeed mighty, but not so mighty as the boss. Let them come!

Because he is not afraid, they are not afraid, either. This is an unusual decision for the natives to make, especially given their past experiences with the voracious hordes of ants. They do not run away, as they would typically do; instead they demonstrate their faith in Leiningen, their boss, and decide to stay with him and protect the plantation as they battle the ants. This is how the natives act out of character in this story.

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