“Paradise Found and Lost” from Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Discoverers, embodies Columbus’ emotions, ideas, and hopes. Boorstin, a former Librarian of Congress, leads the reader through one man’s struggles as he tries to find a Western Passage to the wealth of the East. After reading “Paradise Found and Lost,” I was enlightened about Columbus’ tenacious spirit as he repeatedly fails to find the passage to Asia. Boorstin title of this essay is quite apropos because Columbus discovers a paradise but is unable to see what is before him for his vision is too jaded by his ambition.
Although this essay is historically accurate it lacks important details, which might paint a different view of Columbus. Boorstin writes favorable of Columbus and depicts him as a heroic and determined figure who helped shape history, but he neglects to include Columbus’ unethical acts committed in the world that was not supposed to exist, the Americas. When Columbus first discovered the New World, he took care that the royal standard had been brought ashore and he claimed the land for Spain in front of all, including the indigenous population who had been sighted even before Columbus made landfall.
According to the medieval concepts of natural law, only those territories that are uninhabited can become the property of the first person to discover them. Clearly this was an unethical act. Thus, the first contact between European and non-European worlds was carried out through a decidedly European prism, which ensured Spanish claim to the islands of the Americas. Faced with a colony in an inhospitable area, the Spanish soon inaugurated the practice of sending regular military parties inland to subdue the increasingly hostile natives.
Members of the indigenous population were captured and enslaved to support the fledgling colony. The object of Columbus’ desire changed from exploration and trade to conquest and subjugation. Boorstin eloquently writes of the depreciating mentality of Columbus and his hopes. As each voyage is unsuccessful in producing Oriental splendors or in establishing relations with the Great Kahn, it becomes harder for Columbus to persuade others to support his missions. His explanations become increasingly farfetched and they are lese and less received.
The Spanish monarchs revoked his monopoly on the newly discovered region. He never waiver in his belief that he had found an alternate route to Asia. Columbus had found a paradise just not the one of his hopes and aspirations. This paradise was right before his eyes, yet he lost it. I believe that this is exactly what is meant by the phrase, “you can not see the forest through the trees. ” In conclusion, Boorstin’s “Paradise Found and Lost” truly describes the events surrounding Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas.
Columbus never realized the glory of his discovery. He fashioned blinders that only allowed him to see the east and not the magnificent wonders that were waiting in the Americas. Boorstin paints a vivid picture of Columbus and teaches us that the greatest value of history is in the seeking. Through the tenacity of Columbus, the size of the world increased substantiality for Europeans. The great significance of Columbus’ “discovery” was that Europeans were awakened to how little they knew about the world.
If there were two continents they had never heard of, how much else was there in this world that they did not know? Boorstin has stated “that the greatest obstacles to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. ” Columbus was an inspired, courageous person who wanted to reach out across the world, as it had never been reached before. Boorstin’s views Columbus as a hero, but I beg to differ with this view. It takes more than courage and tenacity to shape a hero, it takes integrity and character. Columbus was a great explorer, but not a hero.