Heart of Darkness Essay

Submitted By Sir Parnell-Stevenso
Words: 1246
Pages: 5

Sir Parnell Stevenson
HIST 344
Professor Curtis
November 19, 2014 Heart of Darkness Paper The novel Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad has an overwhelming condemnation of imperialism. The beginning of the book describes the journey of Charles Marlow which takes him into the interior of the African continent and the fact that he was asked by the trading company to find Mr. Kurtz, who is the Inner Station Chief who is dominating the region as well as putting the natives of the Congo in economic slavery. The psychological power that Kurtz has on the natives which allow him to be the best in the ivory trade as well as being the most economically savvy. As Marlow goes through the story, he is now aware of the darkness that is surrounding him is not caused by the natives nor the native culture. It is being caused by those who the natives had trusted under false pretenses to capture the life and wealth of the undiscovered continent as well as those involved in the Scramble for Africa. Marlow is describing Africa as the big blank space and a white patch for a boy to gloriously dream about” 1. When Marlow was a child, he had thought that the continent of Africa was a mystical place that needed to be explored and discovered and by the time he was able to travel there though “it had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery”2. The rise of imperialism in Africa had begun to change its meaning to Marlow and to Conrad himself. Europe had used the exact same reason why imperialism and the forced colonization of the “uncivilized” natives for years with the claim that Europeans were going to bring in civilization in lands that were considered to be savage. In the beginning of the novel, Conrad himself includes a powerful description of imperialism in which he states “The conquest of the earth is not a pretty thing when its looked at too much. What redeems it is the idea only an idea at the back of it and not as sentimental pretense, but as an idea as well as being an unselfish idea” 3. Conrad also explains the real reason why Europeans were very aggressive with imperialism because of the “economic rape” of African countries that had a lot of resources economically. In this case, it’s the ivory that is in the Congo. Marlow is traveling in this boyish daze that was longing to travel down the river that “fascinated him like a snake would a bird – a silly bird”4. When Marlow arrives, he is submerged deep into the ivory trade that was taking place at the time and when he gets to the station base, he meets the accountant and bookkeeper of the trading post. What remains to be seen in this is that imperialism also required the conversion to Christianity for the savages, yet Conrad does not include one in the novel. Marlow also spends time with the accountant to get an understanding and getting to know Kurtz and he is told that Kurtz is a “first class agent” who brings in the most ivory amongst all the agents who are also in the Congo by way of intimidation tactics as well as harsh conditions for the women 5. He also states that Kurtz is idolized for his economic value and that he is nothing more than a man and because he was able to bring in the most profit, Kurtz is considered to be above most men, even the ones who were with him. While at the base station, Marlow is forced to see the realities that the natives are being treated harshly at the hands of Kurtz while describing how he was able to see “every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope”6. He tries to move away from the image of seeing the atrocities that were committed by going somewhere else, but sees more natives who were “clinging to the earth in all attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair” 7. He is aware that the atrocities that happened to the natives because they were being brought to land that was unfamiliar to them and fed food that was also unfamiliar, which were factors in believing that the natives were dying slowly. Marlow also