Exploitation as Presented in ‘Blood River’

Throughout Blood River, the Congo is presented as a place of immense wild natural beauty, but to a point that it is intimidating, and dangerous. Butcher describes it as a place that corrupts men, and a place in which there is always a battle between mankind, and nature. This is evident in one especially potent extract, on pages 110-111, as it describes to the reader a ”a boy” (which highlights the cruelty of the Congo as he is working from a young age in order to survive) battling through muddy conditions, just to find some worms. The fact that so much effort is used, in order to benefit his life, in such a minor way, shows exploitation as it is clear that the imperialistic invaders have taken many luxuries away from the natives, and kept them for their own benefit, which demonstrates the greedy nature of them, and how they do not care for the suffering they cause to the natives. The struggle due to nature is made more obvious in this extract when it states ”ten kilometres an hour” which is very slow movement due to the treacherous conditions, and devastation which may of been caused by the foreign powers who are known to have blown parts of the Congo up for fun, highlighting exploitation clearly.

This extract highlights that the natives dislike any intruders, even if they are harmless like Butcher. This is clear through the accusatory tone used by a native towards butcher ”You white men”. The use of this second person pronoun distances the speaker from the narrator making it clear the speaker wants no association with him, and suggests dislike already despite not knowing him. Interrogatives such as ”how do I know you have not come here to profit?” further highlights the lack of trust, and the use of short sentences ”Stanley was the first. Then came the Belgians.” further demonstrates the accusatory tone that is used towards newcomers, and again lack of trust. The repetition of ”profit” also by the natives suggests exploitation as it is evident the only reason countries come to the Congo is to exploit its raw materials, and the fact its repeated suggests the natives are bitter about it, and the fact that they were treated badly, as well as being stolen from, which definitely conveys the exploitation of the natives.

Danger in the Congo and its history, is evident throughout this extract with it being shown in many forms. The fact that land mines are present in the Congo acts as a representation of the hidden danger in the Congo, and also a memory of previous exploitation as devices of destruction are left from their previous devastation of the country. The fact that Butcher states ”we followed our footsteps back” suggests an overgrown land which has not been cared for, and also suggests that there is limited safety (e.g., one safe route) which can act as a metaphor for the lack of safety that the natives have from exploitation, which is made clear throughout the extract, that it has been continuous for many years with Congolese places even being named after exploiters, ”Arabs Crossing”. This shows the control the exploiters have over the natives, and that they believe they can come to Congo, and change the natives lives in order to suit themselves with no thought for the natives, showing that their imperialistic nature has no bounds. ”Arabs crossing” is described as being the place in which slavers arrived. The word ”slavers” has connotations of tired souls, and enslavement which shows how the natives were being exploited in order to produce goods for the ”foreign powers”, and the fact that it is well known for this, suggests it went on for a long time. ”Foreign powers” is plural making it evident that not only 1 country knew of the Congo’s wealth of natural resources, and that actually many countries came and instead of fairly taking it, decide to use the natives to help them take it, further demonstrating exploitation.

The words used throughout have significant truth behind them such as ”genocide” and ”worked to death”. ”Worked to Death” suggests hours of tiresome labour, probably for little or no pay, highlighting the exploitation that occurs throughout the Congo. The fact that this is true and occurred in the country, help us to understand the natives hostility towards newcomers, due to what previous newcomers did to their country, and are still currently doing. The use of the word ”insatiable” suggests that there is, and never will be an end to the ongoing exploitation in the Congo, and the use of the verb ”toyed” gives childlike imagery that the Congo is almost a playground for the ‘foreign powers’ to take from at their own will, and helps to convey how unimportant the natives are. ”Stripping” further supports this point as it has connotations of dismantling the Congo, and taking everything, leaving a devastating effect for the natives to deal with alone, which suggests that once the foreign powers had devastated, and taken everything that would benefit them, they didn’t care for what they left behind. The extract then states the natives were seen as ”subhuman” which gives evidence to the point that countries see the natives as something to be exploited, due to the powers seeing themselves as greater than them, and therefore they believe they can exploit the land, and not allow the ”subhuman’s’ to gain any of the rewards from their own land, due to their insignificance to them, which is an act of ultimate exploitation.