Women In Heart Of Darkness

Submitted By cherrywu123456
Words: 1205
Pages: 5

Women in The Heart of Darkness
To write a book when one has only learned english at the age of twenty is difficult for many to do; however, author Joseph Conrad contradicted this idea by writing a timeless, thought provoking piece of literature. Using his experience as a sailor during the time of imperialism, Conrad wrote a novel that goes beyond a normal adventure story. It became a novel that countless critics debated over on subjects such as women and the misogynistic culture that Conrad portrayed. Joseph Conrad skillfully portrayed the misogynistic culture in Heart of Darkness during the 1800s through Marlow’s patronization of women and his belief of “women existing in a different world” while seemly underlining the significance of women providing a sanctuary for men during the imperialistic time. Conrad’s beliefs about women were shaped by societal expectations of them during the 1800s. During that time, women were viewed as inferior to men, and their main role in society was to devote themselves to their husbands and children. There seemed to be a lack of women superiority during this time shown by the fact that married women were considered to be under the authority of their husbands. Any property that a woman owned was controlled by her husband. If her husband divorced her, he would keep the property as well as custody over their children. All these views on women were shown through Marlow’s patronization of women in the novel. In Heart of Darkness, women have no names, which reduces them to the status of men’s appendages or mere possessive cases (Geary 1). Women became beneficiaries of much of the resulting wealth, and they became objects upon which men could display their own success and status. Women in the novel were categorized as Marlow’s Aunt, Kurtz’s Intended, the company’s women, or the accountant’s laundress (Geary 2). This clearly shows the lack of identity in the women characters as well as the lack of importance they have in the novel. Marlow also demonstrated signs of embarrassment when his aunt helped him find a job merely because she was a women. He commented “Then—would you believe it?—I tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work—to get a job. Heavens! Well, you see, the notion drove me (Conrad 7).” Marlow was appalled at the fact a “mere woman” found him a job when he himself could not. Conrad pushed the idea that men and women lived in completely separate worlds in this novel. Women portrayed in this novel were seen as naive and idealistic, believing in a utopian world that would never work out in reality. Marlow, when he mentioned Kurtz Intended, exclaimed that “the women, I mean - are out of it - should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse (Conrad 115).” These are the signs of women’s inferiority- their incapacity for the “real” world of masculine activity (Geary 2). Another example was when Marlow lied to Kurtz’s Intended about Kurtz’s death. Kurtz’s Intended asked about Kurtz’s last words and Marlow told her it was her name. The lie that Marlow told her represents his opinion of women as completely out of touch with reality. Marlow feared that if he told her the truth, he would shatter the “perfect” and “innocent” world of women. By lying to the Intended, Marlow protected the notion that Kurtz sincerely loved her and even till the end Kurtz was still perfect in her mind. This scene supports the idea that women ultimately are incapable of handling the truth and will always live in a world that is dreamlike and carefree. Although Conrad portrays the world of women as misogynistic, it became clear as the story went on that it was not all he meant to depict. Even though Marlow considered the world of women to be delusional, he also considered it to be a place of refuge from an otherwise desolated existence (Peters 7). This world of women seems to provide men with a space in which their existence can matter and a