AP English IV
23 Jan 2009
Heart of Darkness and the Hypocrisy of Imperialism
In the Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses Literary Devices such as symbols, characterization as well as the setting to show the hypocrisy of imperialism. Conrad uses many symbols in order to help prove his theme. River: The Congo River is the key to Africa for Europeans. It allows them access to the center of the continent without having to physically cross it; in other words, it allows the white man to remain always separate or outside. Africa is thus reduced to a series of two-dimensional scenes that flash by Marlow's steamer as he travels upriver (Solinger “Absurd”). The river also seems to want to expel Europeans from Africa altogether: its current makes travel upriver slow and difficult, but the flow of water makes travel downriver, back toward “civilization,” rapid and seemingly inevitable. Marlow's struggles with the river as he travels upstream toward Kurtz reflect his struggles to understand the situation in which he has found himself (Rygiel “Belgian”). The ease with which he journeys back downstream, on the other hand, mirrors his acquiescence to Kurtz and his choice of nightmares (Ross “Desire”). Both Kurtz's Intended and his African mistress function as blank slates upon which the values and the wealth of their respective societies can be displayed. Marlow frequently claims that women are the keepers of naive illusions; although this sounds condemnatory, such a role is in fact crucial, as these naive illusions are at the root of the social fictions that justify economic enterprise and colonial expansion (Viola “Black Athena”). In return, the women are the beneficiaries of much of the resulting wealth, and they become objects upon which men can display their own success and status ( Gokulsing “Style”). French man of war, building the railway: “Conrad’s representation of these colonizing activities as absurdly ineffectual is an attempt to...