The Role of Women in Heart of Darkness
These days, women are as successful and as career-oriented as men. This fact is punctuated by the fact that women are now experiencing stress and disease that used to be the constant companions of men in the workforce. Such is the price of equality and career mobility! However, in the early 1900s, females were still held to be less viable than men and in stories were often portrayed as subservient and weak and thus cast in inferior roles to men. At this time, civilization did not recognize equality between men and women. Joseph Conrad, while considered unique in his critique of imperialism, reflected the traditional treatment of the women as the lesser sex and this represented in the Heart of Darkness. His five women characters were kept unnamed and their speech very limited thus contributing to the repression of women in the male-dominated civilization of the time. Conrad offered no support to the cause of women by following convention and minimizing the viability and agency of females through the creation of two separate, engendered spheres that co-existed in civilization but did not have equal status. Depicting women as unnatural entities, voiceless and agent less, to their male role counterparts highlights the vulnerability of the weaker sex, and Conrad aligns all the women in the story with unreality to evolve the importance of separate realms within society. By holding ignorant ideas, such as Marlow's aunt, or exotic appearances, such as Kurtz's mistress, the women are discounted as illogical and impractical, or if they hold some merit or potential, they are viewed as strange or weird. Either way, they are shown to not be constructed of the sterner stuff that lives in the 'civilized' world of men and thus disaster befalls the men that dare breach the boundary between the two worlds. The first women that Conrad's main character, Marlow, recounts are the two knitters at the Company office in Brussels. The...
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