I am a high school student who loves to read and write. I tend to prefer fiction and fantasy, but I have a lot to say on almost every subject.
I have a tendency to go on tangents when I write, so please let me know if I stray too far away from the original question. I would also like help with syntax and sentence structure. Thank you!
Written By: Lauren Shamburger
May 5, 2014
I'd never even heard of King Leopold before this book, and if I had admittedly I might have mistaken it for a Shakespearean play based only on the name. Now I know more about what happened, including the more horrifying details. At first glance, I described what happened as "every horrible thing humans could possibly do to one another wrapped into one event". I still feel this way, but I wonder if there are darker parts of human history to take into account. Though I tend to romanticize certain concepts or ideas, such as humanity and human nature, I am not blind to the fact that we have one some unforgivable things. Still, if only for my own sanity and to prevent a decent into pessimism, I tend to stray away from thinking about those darker parts of history and focus on the lighter parts.However, after reading this book and discovering that there is still so much I don't know about, I wonder if I should look into humanity's scourges. After all, those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Human nature, or rather how human nature is perceived, is often easily subject to change, especially in the light of scourges against fellow human beings. The events that transpired in the Congo during King Leopold II's rule is a clear example of this, both by the effects of the horrors seen there as well as the horrors themselves. For years, the Congo became an unfortunate example of how humans are all too susceptible to the corruption of power. Witnessing such atrocities happen is no less than life changing. Either you come away, shocked but enlightened to what humans are capable of, or numbed to the empathic emotions that would result from such a scene.
Joseph Conrad was one who was enlightened. In the book, Heart of Darkness, he describes the Congo in such detail with such horror that it becomes clear that what he saw forever changed him. His outlook on humanity darkened, taking on a pessimistic form. He saw men who had become evil. He saw monsters walk in the light, treating fellow humans like animals. He saw how power and greed had changed civilians into the savages they claimed to oppress. He saw what seemed to be the true form of human nature. Heart of Darkness was written to shed light on the true happenings in the Congo, in order to somehow try to bring justice to the people there. However, as much as Joseph Conrad helped the cause, he was forever altered by what he had seen. He had seen the truth of human nature, and the evil, the darkness, that seemed to lurk in the depths of every man's heart.
However accurate his perception may or may not have been, one thing is for certain. The men who worked in the Congo went through a wicked transformation. As described in King Leopold's Ghost, otherwise good and normal men changed to fearsome dictators, doing anything and everything they could to meet their quota, no matter how immoral or ruthless. While King Leopold II was the mastermind behind the events in Africa, sending out the orders and commanding the soldiers and overseers, he himself did not have a hand in the specific abominations that occurred. He never ordered for native's hands to be cut off, or for the