What did Leiningen consider to be his greatest single weapon in "Leinengin Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson?

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

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In "Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson, Leiningen is a plantation owner in the wilds of Brazil. He has established a settlement which he believes can withstand the rigors of the jungle, so when a District official warns him that some ants are coming, Leiningen is not moved to action. 

The administrator, unlike Leiningen (he believes), has seen what these creatures can do when they appear periodically, and he is deathly afraid; in fact, he is leaving and he strongly recommends that Leiningen do the same. Of course Leiningen says he is not leaving, confident that he has prepared for the worst and will be able to withstand a bunch of ants. Before he leaves, the official says:

"You're insane! They're not creatures you can fight--they're an elemental--an 'act of God!' Ten miles long, two miles wide--ants, nothing but ants! And every single one of them a fiend from hell; before you can spit three times they'll eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones. I tell you if you don't clear out at once there'll he nothing left of you but a skeleton picked as clean as your own plantation."

But what the Brazilian does not know is that Leiningen is, indeed, familiar with the plague of ants. He lived in Brazil before he built his plantation, and he used that time to observe the enemies of nature and then prepare defenses against them when he built his plantation. Because of that, he has the utmost confidence that both he and his plantation will survive this so-called "act of God."

Leiningen has already faced other forces of nature since he has lived on his plantation, including floods, droughts, and plagues. While others were unable to withstand these forces of nature, Leiningen maintained his plantation and claimed victory over the elements. He attributes all of his success to his life's motto:


The human brain needs only to become fully aware of its powers to conquer even the elements.

Other people, people who are woefully unprepared, stupid, careless, or lazy, will not survive these kinds of disasters, but Leiningen believes his intelligence,

directed aright, invariably makes man the master of his fate. Yes, Leiningen had always known how to grapple with life. Even here, in this Brazilian wilderness, his brain had triumphed over every difficulty and danger it had so far encountered.

So, though Leiningen has created complex and thorough defenses of many kinds on his plantation, he believes that the single most powerful weapon he has with which to fight against the oncoming ants, the "act of God," is his intelligence. The fact that he is able to convince his terrified native workers to stay with him is testament to their belief in Leiningen's intelligence, as well. 

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moondesignz | Student, Grade 8 | eNotes Newbie

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