Heart Of Darkness By Conrad

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad In Joseph Conrad’s novel, ‘Heart of
Darkness’, the term “darkness” can be related to a few different
meanings. Conrad uses this term in various ways to characterize social,
political and psychological affairs in order to help the reader get a feel of
his attitudes towards things, such as colonialism, Africa, and civilization. The
first impression of the word “darkness” in relations to this novel
that I understood was its reference to racism. This, I got from the way Conrad
writes about the White people and how they treated the natives (Black), in
Africa. During the colonization of Africa, forced ideals of a race that thought
of themselves as more superior than those who occupied that land before them
existed. This is demonstrated as Conrad writes about how the Whites completely
dominate the Blacks in Africa. A significant passage from the novel illustrating
this point is when Marlow describes, ” Black shapes crouched, lay…The
work was going on…this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn
to die…they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and
starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom” (34-35). The natives
were not “helpers”, but slaves who were forced to work till physical
exhaustion under the orders of the White colonist. To further support the idea
of racism as seen in this novel, consider the description that Marlow gives
about an incident he encounters, “And whiles I had to look after the savage
who was a fireman…to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody
of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs…he was useful because
he had been instructed” (63-64). From this, Conrad acknowledges that
although the natives take on some White Lai 2 characteristics, they are still
seen as inferior. In that passage, the fireman is seen as a joke. Not as a man,
but a “dog in breeches”. Therefore, no matter how educated or similar
in appearance the Blacks become, they are still seen as being beneath the
Whites. The natives are not given any personal traits or uniqueness unless they
possess a similarity to the Whites. Even then we see no glimpse of humanity in
their characters through Conrad’s writing. From racism, the idea of civilization
is brought about in terms of “darkness”. Conrad uses the contrast of
light and dark with relation to the civilized and the uncivilized. The light of
course, represents civilization or the civilized side of the world and the dark,
more importantly represents the uncivilized or savage side of the world. From
the passages quoted earlier, when Marlow calls the workers “black shadows
of disease and starvation” (35), Conrad is reinforcing the idea that Blacks
and the dark images they project are uncivilized and they are nothing to be
wishing for. However, through Conrad’s reiteration of Marlow’s experience, there
was an interesting aspect of the slaves seen. The reality is that these Blacks
are what created the civilized life for the Whites. The Blacks are being used by
the civilized, in turn making them uncivilized. But, the fact remains that the
Whites may be considered the savages for working these Blacks to death. However,
as ironic as it may seem, their view was that the natives were there to be
conquered. All in all, Conrad writes about civilization versus savagery. Through
the novel, he implies that the setting of laws and codes that would encourage
men to achieve higher standards is what creates civilization. It prevents men
from reverting back to their darker tendencies. Civilization, however, must be
learned. London itself, in the book is a symbol of enlightenment, was once
“one of the darker places of the earth” before the Romans forced
civilization upon Lai 3 them (18). While society seems to restrain these savage
lifestyles, it does not get rid of them. These primitive tendencies will always
be like a black cloth lurking in the background. The possibility of reverting
back to savagery is seen in Kurtz. When Marlow meets Kurtz, he finds a man that
has totally thrown off the restraints of civilization and has de-evolved into a
primitive state. Marlow and Kurtz are two opposite examples of the human
condition. Kurtz represents what every man will become if left to his own
natural desires without a protective civilized environment. Marlow represents
the civilized soul that has not been drawn back into savagery by a dark,
alienated jungle. This darkness that Conrad writes about can also mean the
wilderness in which the


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