The Amsco Literature Program's Teacher's Edition of Heart of Darkness provides the following useful information on Belgian rule and trade in the Congo:

"In 1885 the European nations met in Berlin to decide how the various parts of Africa should be divided among them, so that they need not fight over territory. One result of this conference was that the Congo was recognized as the private personal estate of King Leopold II of Belgium.
"Leopold had set his sights on this goal long before, when he spoke of 'the need to open to civilization the only part of our globe where Christianity has not penetrated, and to pierce the darkness which envelops the entire population.' As Chief of State of the Congo, he explained:
The mission which the agents of the State have to accomplish in the Congo is a noble one. . . . Placed face to face with primitive barbarism, grappling with bloody customs that date back thousands of years, they are obliged to reduce these gradually. They must accustom the population to general laws, of which the most needful and the most salutary is assuredly that of work.
"Thus he deposed all native tribal chiefs and divided his new territory into fifteen districts, appointing a commissioner for each one. These commissioners had the job of administering Belgian rule and collecting taxes due the new mother country. In lieu of payment of taxes, the commissioners could force the natives to work for the trading companies that were granted exclusive rights to each district. Any natives who refused were then considered criminals.
"It was for one of these companies, the Societe du Haut Congo, that Joseph Conrad commanded the Steamer Roi des Belges in 1890, travelling upriver to the Societe's ivory trading stations. Nine years later Conrad would describe that African adventure in a three-part serialized novel, Heart of Darkness."

(Julie Stein, Teacher's Edition, p. 289)

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EXISTENTIALISM from Thrall, Hibbard, Holman's A Handbook to Literature, pp. 192-193.

"A term applied to a group of attitudes current in philosophical, religious, and artistic thought during and after World War II, which emphasizes existence rather than essence and sees the inadequacy of the human reason to explain the enigma of the universe as the basic philosophical question. The term is so broadly and loosely used that an exact definition is not possible. . . .

"The existential philosophy is concerned with the personal 'commitment' of this unique existing individual in the 'human situation.' It attempts to codify the irrational aspect of man's nature, to objectify non-being or nothingness and see it as a universal source of fear, to distrust concepts, and to emphasize experiential concreteness. The existentialist's point of departure is the immediate sense of awareness that man has of his situation. A part of this awareness is the sense man has of meaninglessness in the outer world; this meaninglessness produces in him a discomfort, an anxiety, a loneliness in the face of man's limitations and a desire to invest experience with meaning by acting upon the world, although efforts to act in a meaningless, 'absurd' world lead to anguish, greater loneliness, and despair. Such a philosophical attitude can result in nihilism and hopelessness, as, indeed, it has with many of the literary existentialists.

"On the other hand, the existential view can assert the possibility of improvement. Most pessimistic systems find the source of their despair in the fixed imperfection of human nature or of the human context; the existentialist, however, denies all absolute principles and holds that human nature is fixed only in that we have agreed to recognize certain human attributes; it is, therefore, subject to change if men can agree on other attributes or even to change by a single man if he acts bravely in contradiction to the accepted principles. Hence, for the existentialist, the possibilities of altering human nature and society are unlimited but, at this time, man can hope for aid in making such alterations only from within himself."

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- illuminates individual experience
- conveys inner consciousness
- focuses on the mystery of the universe, its lack of order and purpose

Short video . . . .

We Were Wanderers On A Prehistoric Earth from James W Griffiths on Vimeo.