King Leopold's Ghost Metaphors and Similes

King Leopold's Ghost Metaphors and Similes

Metaphor for civilization

The things that the Portuguese brought into the new society they discovered were Churches and schools and little by little the Congolese people became more willing to accept the change brought by the foreign visitors. It is however implied that the churches and schools built there by the first Europeans also had a metaphorical value and they stand for the European civilization they slowly introduced into the African one. While in Europe the two institutions were very powerful and important, in Congo they had little to no value. Things changed however in time and the Canonesses adopted the European point of view regarding religion and educations.

Metaphor for power

The European countries were much more powerful than the African ones not because they were more intelligent but because they had weapons the African countries did not have. Canons, ships and guns were invented by the Europeans in those times and the technological advancements allowed them to assert their power over other countries. Thus, here, the weapons the first Europeans to touch Africa are used as a metaphor for power.

Just like you

In 1883, the American president Chester Arthur meet with General Henry, sent by King Leopold in an attempt to convince the United States to support Belgium and its claims on the African land. To do this, they compared Leopold’s actions with the way America chose to deal with is former slaves, namely create a safe space in Africa for those who wanted to return. The country went then to become Liberia, an independent country chosen by the slaves who chose to return to their homeland. By comparing Leopold’s work with what the United States and other private philanthropic organization did for the slaves the General hoped to obtain the President’s support which they did only a year later.


To control the people living in Congo, the Europeans let them believe that they had supernatural powers because they had technological advancements they did not. Because the Africans did not understand it, they feared it and so the Europeans found that they were easier to control. The Europeans proved their superiority through their technological advancements and they are used as a metaphor that stands for cunningness and intelligence.

Metaphor for maturity

Many historians asked themselves why the white people did not act when they saw the cruel acts performed by the soldiers and aristocrats that were in Congo. A reason given for this is that many were expected to remain emotionless and unaffected to prove their maturity and strength. Thus, their lack of action is not necessary a sign of cruelty but a metaphor for maturity and strength.

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