Cannibals and Missionaries Summary
Mary McCarthy

Everything you need to understand or teach Cannibals and Missionaries by Mary McCarthy.

  • Cannibals and Missionaries Summary & Study Guide

Cannibals and Missionaries Summary

Like The Group (1963), Cannibals and Missionaries is concerned with confusion about values and with the difficulty of generating manners and standards of conduct which live up to ideology. The milieu, urban terrorism, conflicting ideologies, and great gaps not only between haves and have-nots but between priorities and values, create a condition of instability and isolation which requires some form of balancing. A rational sense of the self and one's relationship to others and to "things" must temper the increasing irrationality of contemporary life, reflected in the novel as Jeroen, the terrorist leader — devoted to the leveling of "things" and the elevation of people — destroys his comrades and the paintings as well in an explosive suicide pact with Vermeer's Girl with which he has fallen in love.

A preoccupation with the terrorist threat to "civilized values" has been a benchmark of 1970s and...

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Cannibals and Missionaries Short Guide