The Cruelty of Colonialism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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A nation of tortured slaves with bodies so emaciated one could count the ribs, death lingering in every corner as overworked natives line the ground with their lifeless forms, a people so scarred that evil men are allowed to rule as gods. Unfortunately, the gruesome description reigns true for African tribes that fell victim to the cruelty of colonialism. Pointing out the abhorrent evils of the imperial tradition, Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness to expose the possibility of malevolence in a human being. Throughout the novella, Conrad illustrates sickening images of the horrendous effects of colonizing African tribes while incorporating themes such as a reversal of black and white imagery, the “fascination of the abomination”, and the inherent evil within humanity. Uniquely, Conrad often describes good and virtuous situations or people using the commonly negative description black. Likewise, Conrad also uses the word “white” to describe negative, evil, or unfortunate events and people. Another use of theme arises as Conrad’s main narrator, Marlow, becomes fascinated with the savage people and the cruelty under which they live. Although the situations and people are described as wild, Marlow pays special attention to the details of these people because they are all human, like him. Lastly, the protagonist, Kurtz, falls into deep evils as his soul is consumed by power-hungry and greedy ambitions. Conrad often discusses the possibility of evil within every man if the environment is unrestrained and open to a dictatorship-like control. Despite the main idea of the novel being the evil within man, a native Nigerian professor, Chinua Achebe, greatly criticizes what he believes to be both obvious and subtle racist undertones through... ... middle of paper ... ...identally, Conrad distances himself from the main narrator and creates a deep persona by writing a frame story, which is why Conrad and Marlow probably differ greatly in some opinions. Marlow may have exhibited some racist traits, but Conrad removed his personal voice from parts of the narration in order to ironically prove that he did not agree with the statements being told. In thematic parallelism with the novel, was Achebe truly disgusted by Conrad’s “racist” undertones or did he too just have a “fascination of the abomination” that was presented through Marlow’s persona? Works Cited Primary: Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Clayton, DE.: Prestwick House: Literary Touchstone Classics. Print. Secondary: Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa.” EXPLORING Novels. Online Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center – Gold. Gale. Ascension Academy. 9 June 2008.
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