Monday, May 14, 2012

Freedom and Conquest

The great gift of literature is its examination of the world we never knew. Preserved in time from the moment the words reach the public, we are given a looking glass through which we can see the worlds of freedom and conquest in the history of humankind, from the white woman who 'knows her place' to the black nation that succumbs to an idea by a great Caucasian empire.

I generally love the idea of getting to discover the trials and tribulations of our race through literature. In preparation for my exams, I found myself studying The Awakening and Heart of Darkness, two radically different stories. One tells us of freedom, the other of colonialism, and neither paints a very good picture. What should have been a life of joy and creativity turns to a life of extremism, loneliness and desperation.

It doesn't paint a great picture of an artist, does it? Free from a repressive relationship, genuinely successful enough to live on her own, and still unhappy.

Or how about the Brit that got away? Takes a nation by the horns and ends up dead.

Neither freedom not conquest end well, not in these cases. It poses a question for life: are we better to conquer or to escape? It comes down to the context of our lives, and how we plan on getting by.

Edna flees a life she was never happy with it. She does it boldly and bravely, but with a knowledge that she had a gift she could earn from. Even with company, even with this gift, however, Edna must come to a realisation: in running away from everything she once knew, she has no way of surviving when her last safe-guard falls apart.

Kurtz, on the other hand, rules with an iron fist. And where did that get him? Right... not very far. Just like Edna, he finds himself an early grave in a heat of madness, taken too far from the life he once knew.

Is there a middle ground between freedom and conquest? I imagine there is, but it seems difficult to tell how one might tackle the world without going insane. Alone, separated from the world we know, what chance do we really stand?

While we might take baby-steps online into the great unknown, there are some that take bigger steps and leave altogether. They escape to America, or Canada, or Australia, and they live a new life, working in a new industry or trying to make it alone. Others simply run with no end in sight, trying to be free. The unfortunate nature of freedom, however, is that it has particularly isolating qualities. In the loneliness of the great unknown, be it freedom or conquest, the odds are against us.

Can we simply hide in the books and learn from life that way?

Something tells me that there's more to us than that, to some of us at least, and the great dangers of the ever unknown and the horrors that await can only be found in the action of leaving. But leaving alone? It remains to be seen whether, as a people, we can survive. The social animal in us doesn't know how to breathe loneliness.

The suffocating madness doesn't seem worth it, and I suppose that's why I keep my friends close when I write. While I may be at home, while I may be safe, there's still that loneliness that likes to creep up. The simple thought that there are people somehow involved in the process before it begins somehow makes it less terrifying to embark on a journey into the unknown. That's just my way of reconciling my dream with the reality, before I face the horror (the horror).

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