Heart of Darkness

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The immortality and blindness to a dark continent

Joseph Conrad’s s novel “Heart of Darkness” portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical continent of Africa as “so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness”, (Conrad 2180) as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life. Conrad lived through a time when European colonies were scattered all over the world. This phenomenon and the doctrine of colonialism bought into at his time obviously influenced his views at the time of “Heart of Darkness” publication. Very few people saw anything amiss with colonialism in Africa and the African people. From a Eurocentric point of view, colonialism was the natural next-step in any powerful countries political agenda. The colonizers did not pay heed to the native peoples in their territories, nor did they think of the natives as anything but savages. In the “Heart of Darkness”, Joseph Conrad uses Marlow to contradict the acts of man and the destruction they brought forth to Africa and their people. Conrad shows, through fiction, that the blindness and lack of morality in Africa allowed for the release of the darkness from the hearts of the colonists.

In the opening of his novel, “Heart of Darkness”, Conrad, through Marlow, establishes his thoughts on colonialism. He says that conquerors only use brute force, "nothing to boast of” (Conrad 2143) because it arises, by accident, from another's weakness. Marlow compares his subsequent tale of colonialism with that of the Roman colonization of Northern Europe and the fascination associated with such an endeavor. In comparison to Marlow thoughts on European colonizing, Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the writer of “Manchester Chamber of Commerce”, states that “No part of Africa, look where I might, appeared so promising to me as this neglected tenth part of the continent” (Stanley 2201) which seem to me that he was fascinated in colonizing and retrieving money for his findings, with no moral thought with the people who colonized there. Stanley goes on and states, “but unfortunately the European nations will not heed this cry” (Stanley 2201), which clearly shows a careless act of taken over a country that doesn’t want to be touch. Marlow challenges this viewpoint by painting a heinous picture of the horrors of colonialist ventures as we explore deeper into the recesses of the novel. Here we find that Marlow sees colonization as "robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind - as it is very proper for those who tackle darkness” (Conrad 2143). Further, he sees such conquests as taking land and materials away from those people who "have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses” (Conrad 2143). As he understands it, colonization is only successful if there lays within it a "devotion to efficiency" (Conrad 2143) and a creation of civilization.

Throughout “Heart of Darkness”, Conrad uses images of darkness to represent the blindness of seaman traveling for ivory in Africa. Darkness is demonstrated as anything unknown to man, primitive, evil, and mysterious. To Conrad, Africa is the very representation of darkness. Marlow often uses the phrase, “We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness” (Conrad 2165), to describe his progress on the Congo with a feeling of the unknown coming towards Marlow and his men. By traveling farther and farther down the Congo, Marlow and his crew get closer and closer to the epicenter of this foreboding darkness, and the hell of immorality. The unknown continent of Africa look and feel was dark and unknown to the naked eye, “Beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight, and through the dim stir, through the faint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, the silence of the land went home to one’s very heart its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its...
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