“Altruism and naiveté: European perceptions of Africa in 1899 manifested in through the women in “Heart of Darkness” Alia Aglan
IB English 12: 1st blue October 1, 2013
“Heart of Darkness,” by Josef Conrad is a story about the evils of imperialism during the late 1800s, often embodied by devilish imagery, “these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men-men, I tell you” (25). Within the story the contrast idea of the purely altruistic perceptions that the Europeans held about Africa and imperialism as a whole is manifested through two characters: the main character, Marlow’s Aunt and, the “prodigy” ivory agent’s, Kurtz, fiancée.
Marlow’s Aunt, an un-nameless woman who is described by Marlow as ignorant to his intentions in Africa, “It appeared, however, I was also one of the Workers, with a capital-you know. Something like an emissary of light, something like a lower sort of Apostle… She talked about “weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways” till upon my word, she made me feel quite uncomfortable” (19), Marlow’s aunt believed he was going to Africa to become a missionary and save the people of Africa from their uncivilized ways; this concept, termed “the white man’s burden,” was shared by many Europeans in that time. The concept first started as a poem by an English poet Rudyard Kipling, and is influenced by the theory of Social Darwinism, all of which reduces into the ultimate Eurocentric mindset, that still exists today. Marlow’s aunt compares what Marlow to “an emissary of light” (19) and with this echoes the belief of European supremacy and in the heart of darkness, which...
Cited: Conrad, Josef. Heart of Darkness. New York City: Dover Publications, 1990. Print.
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