Heart of Darkness; Values of Colonisers

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To what extent does Conrad challenge or endorse the values of the colonisers in Heart of Darkness?

Conrad, in Heart of Darkness, challenges the values of colonialism, but at the same time he conforms to the constraints of popular culture of the time in which he wrote. In this way, the extent to which he challenges mainstream ideas is limited in regards to the angles of his criticism. Conrad’s detailed descriptions of the Europeans in Heart of Darkness implicate his discontent towards colonial practices whilst certain references to the “black fellows” who reside in Africa show his opinions are influenced by his time, and thusly impact his acquired knowledge of what is politically correct or incorrect. Conrad challenges stereotypical beliefs and values of colonisers in Heart of Darkness but falls victim to their jargon, in this way, Conrad himself is portraying some of the qualities of colonialist groups whom he aims to question throughout the novel. These qualities such as Euro-centrism are challenged through Conrad’s use of language, as his rich but obscure descriptions and his portrayals of the landscape and people of Africa contrast to the Europeans.

Conrad highlights the pointlessness and futility of the quest in Africa through his main character and narrator Marlow. Statements display his disgust and horror in colonialism as he describes the European’s efforts as a “rapacious and pitiless folly” and states that he “stood appalled” at the sights he saw of “mournful and senseless delusion”, of the “empty and desolate station” of Kurtz. There is a lack of positive and tranquil descriptions of the landscape which enforce the idea that Conrad does not aim to endorse Colonialism. Frequent references to things of the earth seeming “unearthly” imply the detrimental transformations and distortions spurred from colonising happening to Africa. Entering Africa is described as entering “darkness”, as though it is like entering “brooding gloom”. Conrad most...
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