Imperialism- Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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Imperialism- Conrad's Heart of Darkness

By | April 2008
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Imperialism and its oppressive processes have affected societies as well as individual lives for centuries. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, oppression through imperialism demonstrates how a certain civilization, the Congolese, is affected negatively by imperialism. By focusing on Africa, it allows for a graphic recount of the many years spent reigned by foreign oppressors and tyrannies. In Heart of Darkness, the Congo is oppressed by the imperialists economically and geographically. As well, the oppressed people are taken advantage of spiritually. Conrad describes how the ruling tyrant is affected by the process of conquering a local people and this draws a parallel to the ruling empire. Conrad, through his novel, attempts to demonstrate the negative consequences associated with imperialism for not only the natives but also the imperialists.

In Heart of Darkness, the Congo is victimized when it is conquered geographically and economically by British and Roman imperialists. According to Conrad, the British enter the Congo with a belief that they were there to do good and to introduce their ways to the Congolese. In terms of economic defeat, the British reaped the benefits of the Congo’s rich resources. On his way to the post, the character Marlow points out, “It had known the ships and the men...The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires.” (Conrad, 67). The tone of this statement is optimistic and not that of someone heading to battle. Marlow also discusses the many travellers who come through the Congo searching for fame or gold. The most obvious oppressive measure in Heart of Darkness is the geographic conquering in the Congo. Marlow reflects on Africa’s tumultuous past by referencing Roman imperialism, “I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago.” (Conrad, 71). This statement allows some insight for the reader into the centuries of fighting over ownership of the Congo that the...