Thursday, October 7, 2010

Through the Dark Continent- Henry Morton Stanley

Through the Dark Continent:Volume 1Through the Dark Continent:Volume 1 by Henry Morton Stanley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I think I would rather get hit by a bus than try to read the second half of this 1000 paged narrative. I had to read it for a class to try to see where the "Dark Continent" stereotype began (the attitude towards Africa since European explorations and commentaries, like this, that Africa is dark, uncivilized, evil, dangerous, etc.) This was probably the most racist book I have ever read.  My earlier comments on this narrative can be found here.

Hardly anything is redeeming about this book, other than getting a snap shot of how people really did view this continent hundreds of years ago. The countless references to landmarks and descriptions were painfully boring, but the attitudes towards the death of natives is what bothered me the most. If a whiteman died, he would get a few pages and maybe a cute little sketch to mark the chapter. Even a dog would get at least a half of page. Yet, the natives who guided him along that died along the way were barely mentioned.

One of the most bothersome things about the dialogue in this book is that it is always biased to make him look like a good guy. It is so painfully didactic and flat. He makes it seem like he has conversations with the locals like he is not working through a translator and having all the problems that come with translation. I feel like a lot of the problems that come with cross cultural interaction were simply omitted and coated in whatever overlay he felt like bestowing.

I am glad I had the opportunity to read this to see where some of these stereotypes about Africa have originated. Sometimes I wonder if we have gotten much farther today, where the only thing we seem to know about the place is what we see on Hollywood movies that glorify some of these issues. I hope that we can still evolve past this.

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