Heart of Darkness: Cruelty

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Heart of Darkness: Cruelty

David Yu

In Joseph Conrad's book Heart of Darkness the Europeans are cut off from civilization, overtaken by greed, exploitation, and material interests from his own kind. Conrad develops themes of personal power, individual responsibility, and social justice. His book has all the trappings of the conventional adventure tale - mystery, exotic setting, escape, suspense, unexpected attack. The book is a record of things seen and done by Conrad while in the Belgian Congo. Conrad uses Marlow, the main character in the book, as a narrator so he himself can enter the story and tell it out of his own philosophical mind. Conrad's voyages to the Atlantic and Pacific, and the coasts of Seas of the East brought contrasts of novelty and exotic discovery. By the time Conrad took his harrowing journey into the Congo in 1890, reality had become unconditional. The African venture figured as his descent into hell. He returned ravaged by the illness and mental disruption which undermined his health for the remaining years of his life. Marlow's journey into the Congo, like Conrad's journey, was also meaningful. Marlow experienced the violent threat of nature, the insensibility of reality, and the moral darkness.

We have noticed that important motives in Heart of Darkness connect the white men with the Africans. Conrad knew that the white men who come to Africa professing to bring progress and light to "darkest Africa" have themselves been deprived of the sanctions of their European social orders; they also have been alienated from the old tribal ways.

"Thrown upon their own inner spiritual resources they may be utterly damned by their greed, their sloth, and their hypocrisy into moral insignificance, as were the pilgrims, or they may be so corrupt by their absolute power over the Africans that some Marlow will

need to lay their memory among the 'dead Cats of Civilization.'" (Conrad 105.)

The...
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