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Culture and Imperialism in Two Visions in Heart of Darkness - Essay Example

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The object of analysis for the purpose of this assignment is Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness” that captures the agenda of white imperialism of the West over colonized and subjugated people of the African continent. …
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Culture and Imperialism in Two Visions in Heart of Darkness
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Download file to see previous pages This paper illustrates that there are two ‘visions’ or arguments in Conrad’s novella which continue into the latter half of the 20th century. The first is the continuation of imperialist dominance over formerly colonized people, ‘morally and intellectually’. Conrad, although he could not envisage an alternative to imperialism, foresaw and hinted at its demise, because of his awareness that everything is contingent. Said refers to more recent postmodernist thinkers who undermine any and all enduring scripts including imperialism. Even so, the old imperialists continue to rule the former colonies by proxy, since they are able to foist authoritarian regimes in those countries subservient to their former masters. The second ‘vision’ is the subtle manner by which Conrad draws attention to ‘what he is presenting (as) not quite as it should be or appears to be.’ He cannot deny the power of “the darkness” which ‘has (an) autonomy of its own’, likened to ‘a non-European world resisting imperialism ...’ In conclusion, Said lists several writers who represent a ‘movement, literature and theory of resistance and response to empire..’, contradicting European presumptions of ‘the natives’ incapacity to take part on equal terms in scientific discourse about them.’ Early in his career as a literary scholar, critic and historian, Edward Said had written extensively about Joseph Conrad, the celebrated English novelist of Polish extraction. Here, in a later work, Said uses his knowledge of Conrad’s works, specifically the novella, Heart of Darkness, to support his polemic against Western imperialism. The clarity and validity of his arguments to support his position are examined in this essay. His literary style is also brought under scrutiny. Said says that the ‘imperial attitude’ is well captured in this novella ‘written between 1898 and 1899’. Marlow’s travels by steamboat in the heart of Africa represent one early facet of imperialism, as an ‘adventurous and individualistic enterprise’. As imperialism spread, business took over, and the looting, greed, murderous violence, and insanity, the result of the unbridled power that followed, is embodied by Kurtz. By the 1990s when Said was writing this piece, he could identify two ‘visions’ or discourses. The first was the continuing hegemony of Westerners over their former colonies as markets, and persistent ideological imperialism. The other ‘vision’ is that imperialism and its aftermath ‘would have its moment’, but will ‘have to pass’ although Conrad had no clear idea of what would replace it. Said then elaborates on the first ‘vision’ at length, revealing how Conrad’s narrative method was able to hint at - ‘imperialism, far from swallowing up its own history, was taking place and was circumscribed by a larger history …’ Unfortunately, Said’s style becomes opaque. He uses obscure words like exilic and non-words like ‘provisionality’. His sentences are convoluted and long, with value-laden adjectives like the ‘assertive sovereign inclusiveness’, and ‘a miscellaneous bunch of querulous intellectuals and wishy-washy skeptics’. It is not easy to understand his rhetoric. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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