“The Idiots” by Joseph Conrad. The story starts out with a man traveling with a merchant down a lonely road whose only occupants are the children only referred to as “the idiots”. There are four children who have been deemed as such, where the passenger begins his curiosity at how this title came to pass. It wasn’t until they reached the farmhouse where a bedridden old women resided, watching over these children that the full story begins to unfold.
The setting is placed in a small coastal town, set some time in the late 1800’s in the time where horse and carriage was still prevalent and the purpose of children was to carry on the lineage of tending to the farm.
Conrad does a fantastic job of really painting a picture in the minds of the reader. He lays out in beautiful detail, not only the characters, but the landscape and feeling as well. He did this so well, that as I was reading, I could construct the images as though i was watching a movie, or better yet could place myself in the story as a bystander watching all of these events unfold. This is a dark and decrepit story filled with insanity and murder, joy and despair, thoughtfulness of life and the necessity for death.
One connection I made was that in relation to the discard of imperfect children from the times of ancient Greece. The connection lies with The Becadou family where Jean-Pierre Becadou weds his wife Susan and some months later receive the blessing of two twin boys. A blessing? Not so much for Jean. Upon inspection of his two ne heirs, he notices a distant empty look in their eyes. A distant dark realm in which there was no return and no guiding light to the future. “idiots”. Another boy is born….”idiot”. One more try, they can’t all be like that…can they? A girl….an idiot girl! From this begins the the sorrow driven to madness within the Becadou family. madness that coalesced from the whispers, stares, sympathetic gestures, from those who were “normal”.
Looking at this story with the perspective of the modern real world we can all agree that the ignorance and closed mindedness of this family lead them to destruction before it even began. How can you judge the outcome of an individual who hasn’t yet begun life. This is a stupid and… quite frankly a “idiotic” view point. Kinda ironic isn’t it? But we can learn from this story. I think the overall message here is to never judge too quickly and give life a chance. Because if we don’t we are destined to self destruct.
Overall I really enjoyed this story, the only problem I had (which wasn’t really a problem with the text itself) was that it is a old story that uses words and terms from a time in the past, not to mention a quite a few words I had never seen before, let alone knew the definition to. If you can get past that issue, this is a fantastic read.