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Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness and A Passage to India

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It is best to analyze the works, Heart of Darkness and A Passage to India, applying the historical and cultural conditions of the society in which they were produced. The relations between groups and classes of people that imperialism sets up, and that these two works explore, starkly reveals the contradictions within capitalism in a way that a similar piece of fiction set within one culture and dealing with characters from that culture alone cannot. Prior to the analysis however, I would like to give a brief, pertinent explanation of the Marxist approach to the analysis of literature and of the terms I will be using.

After years of study and research, Karl Marx published the first volume of his monumental Das Kapital in 1867. In it Marx presents his theory of the materialist conception of history in which the economic base of a society gives rise to and interacts in a dialectical way with the societal superstructure of culture, law, religion and art. Among other things, Das Kapital traces the historical development of industrial capitalism as arising out of feudalism, predicts capitalism's further evolution, and sets forth theories of class structure and class struggle. It also critiques the methods by which industrial capitalism organizes the means of production so that capital and labor are separated and held by distinct and antagonistic groups within the society. This separation overwhelmingly benefits the holders of capital, politically and economically, to the corresponding detriment of those who sell their labor. Though this is by no means an adequate summary of Marx' ideas and contributions, my aim is to provide this simple theoretical framework within which to focus on more particular elements of Marxist theory. Fo...


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...ieve that imperial rule, if inevitable in the short run, was an inglorious enterprise that deformed both those who ruled and those who submitted" (153). I believe that Joseph Conrad and E. M. Forster were two such artists and that the two works in question reflected their growing awareness of imperialism as an "inglorious enterprise" whether this was consciously expressed by the author(s) or not. This study will also attempt to tease out the ways in which each work both supports and subverts the imperial mission and its ideology and I will also speculate to a certain extent as to how these contradictions in the works reflected contradictions in the society in which they were written.

Works Cited:

Conrad, James. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Great Britain, BPC paperbacks ltd. 1990.

Forster, E.M. A Passage to India. Neew York: Harcourt Brace, 1984.


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