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Heart of Darkness - Essay Example

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Subject Heart of Darkness The novella Heart of Darkness has always raised controversy for the interesting way Joseph Conrad has written it. While some people argue that he was a racist, others allege that he has used racist language only to show that the Europeans who claim to bring ‘light’ to the dark Africa are the really ‘dark’ people…
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Heart of Darkness
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Heart of Darkness

Download file to see previous pages... At this point the fact to be admitted is that when Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, and even at the time presented in the story, the British colonial empire was at its zenith. It enjoyed colonies in Hong Kong, Malaya, India, and Africa. On the one hand, the work allows the reader to look into Congo through the eyes of an imperialist. For example, the very beginning of the novel points out that Thames is “a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth” (Conrad 6). Thus, some critics argue that this point itself reveals how racist Joseph Conrad is. However, the mere fact is that the novel puts forward the message that even the notion of civilization is an illusion. To illustrate: for Marlow, reaching Congo is a realization of the hollowness of his own notion of civilization. He fails to understand why the cannibals employed on his ship should not eat the other passengers (Conrad 57). Also, he feels that the cannibals possess no morality and conscience so that they can control their own basic animal desires. However, in the same situation, Marlow reaches the conclusion that the people along with him on the ship must not look so appetizing. It is ironic here to note that the same civilized Marlow who believes that the cannibals have no moral values proves that if he were in the position of the Africans, he would do the same, too. In other words, Conrad effectively portrays that the concept of civilization and enlightenment are rather superficial in nature. Despite the so-called civility, there is an underlying beast in humans that just comes out in the right circumstances. In other words, in the case of Marlow, the trip to Africa made him understand the basic animal-like tendencies in humans that thrive in the wild. Also, he realizes the fact that the civility the Europeans try to introduce in the wild is rather phony in nature because the cruelties of the wild are not crueler than the cruelties of imperialism. Admittedly, one cannot deny the fact that Conrad was an imperialist. It becomes evident from the fact that Marlow is highly careful to ensure that he does not fall prey to the charms of the wild as happened to Kurtz. While Kurtz admitted the rules of the wild, Marlow is not ready to descend into that darkness. Thus, one gets the insight that instead of rejecting Western culture and ideals, the purpose of Conrad is to point out that most of the time; the Western society is not functioning in the way it is supposed to function. In other words, the Western ideals fail to perform in a more human way than the ideals of the savages. Another perfect example is the way the slaves are treated by the West. He says “they were dying slowly---it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now” (Conrad 42). Again, one has to remember the fact that Conrad resorted to such a statement at a time when imperialism was at the zenith of its power around the world. Though it is possible for critics to claim that one can find fragments of imperialist ideologies in the work of Conrad, they cannot forget the fact that Conrad expresses in clear terms as to how ones morality and conscience will condemn the savagery committed by European imperialism as much as one condemns the savagery of the wild. Here, one gains the insight that Marlow - the conscience of Conrad - is in constant conflict with the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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