Since the Renaissance, Western society has been impacted by several revolutionary ideas. It may be argued that society was more receptive to new ideologies, which were intended to transform their way of life. It’s important to mention that not all of these revolutionary ideas yielded positive results. Regardless, Western society has continued to evolve with the passage of time, taking what was needed from various movements and discarding what was deemed useless.
Napoleon emerged as France’s first leader, following the French Revolution. Therefore, it was quite an eye opening exercise to determine whether he chose to follow or break away from the aims of the revolutionaries. The term revolution has been used more “frequently to signify a total overthrow of the existing political and social order” (Puchner et al. 545). In reference to France, the actions of the revolutionaries exceeded their geographic boundaries, and set off a series of political uprising across the European continent (Hunt et al. 604). The French Revolution was a direct reflection of the ills of society at the time. For the first time, citizens were no longer willing to suffer in silence. As their frustrations overflowed, there was a resounding cry for changes in the way that the state functioned. One of the main areas of contention dealt with the economic constraints, which the ruling monarchy was ill-equipped to manage. Even worse, the social inequities and the rising costs of their bare necessities forced French citizens to rebel. Unfortunately, “the fiscal crisis soon provoked a constitutional crisis of epic proportions” (Hunt et al. 610). There was a ripple effect, along with the loud cry for change. Consequently, after several failed attempts by the revolutionaries, there was the first establishment of a republic in French history (Hunt et al. 614). At the forefront, the revolutionaries were focused on ensuring the wellbeing of society on a whole, especially with the removal of the monarchy. Most significantly, as the revolution was dwindling down, with the support of the military, Napoleon was presented as a new national leader. As a result, it is important to compare the both factions, and to determine whether they were aligned or followed different paths.
Joseph Conrad took on the challenge of composing a literary critique of imperialism in Africa, when he wrote The Heart of Darkness. This well-suited title hinted to the realities of both the African natives and the European imperialists. Additionally, Conrad’s narrative was more of an exposé, as he addressed a subject that many seemed to shy away from, or chose to only portray it in a positive way. However, Conrad had the good or bad fortune, depending on one’s perspective, to actually travel to the Congo, where he was able to see for himself, what truly took place under the umbrella of imperialism. Through personal observations and introspective conversations with other explorers, he received a well-rounded understanding of this economic and politically motivated phenomenon. During one of his discussions with another trader, Conrad was left grossly repulsed and traumatized by all that he had learned. Consequently, after a few years following his voyage, “he began to write about it with a moral rage that emerged openly at first and subsequently in more complex, ironic form” (Puchner et al. 1692). This would explain his motivation for writing Heart of Darkness, which was completely nuanced, as he described his different reactions of the narrator throughout his voyage. The young explorer, Marlow, was initially enthralled by the idea of voyaging to Africa; however, his experiences showed that he was ill-prepared for the realities, which will forever change him as a man.
Hunt, L., et al. The Making of the West, Peoples and Cultures. 5th Edition, Vol 2, Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Puchner, Martin, et al. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Vol. 2, 9th Edition, W.W. Norton, 2014.