Conrad’s Congo Journey

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Conrad’s Congo Journey

Joseph Conrad’s own experiences during his trip through the Congo helped him provide a foundation for the writing of Heart of Darkness. In 1890, Conrad took a job as a captain on the river steamer Kinshasa. Before Conrad took this job, he had worked for the French merchant navy as a way to escape Russian military service and also to escape the emotional troubles that had plagued him. Conrad had been in a financial crisis that was resolved with help from his uncle. After this series of events, Conrad joined the British merchant navy at the beckoning of his uncle and took the job as the captain of a steamboat in the Congo River. An important fact to remember is that Conrad was a young and inexperienced man when he was exposed to the harsh and dangerous life of a sailor. His experiences in the West Indies and especially in the Belgium Congo were eye opening and facilitated his strong outlooks that are reflected in the book Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s journey through the Belgian Congo gave him the experiences and knowledge to write about a place that most Europeans would never see in their lives.

The diaries Conrad kept during his journey through the Congo gives detailed descriptions of the monotonous African landscape. Conrad wrote that the landscape of the African coast looked the same every single day.[1] This is reflected in Marlow’s narration of the jungle where shapes and forms cannot be made out clearly. The monotonous landscape differed from what Conrad had expected of this exotic location. When he was still a young kid, he had once boasted that he would someday journey to the heart of Africa. However, the actual journey was not at all what he expected it to be. Conrad was shocked at the men in the African colony. He was repulsed by the European colonizers because of the horrible treatment of the natives as well as the unlawful aggressive pursuit of loot. Conrad witnessed atrocities committed by the European colonizers, which helped to form his opinions on the colonization of Africa. In the novel, Conrad uses sarcasm to display his displeasure towards the European colonizers’ treatment of the natives. The Europeans in the book are called pilgrims and the natives are called cannibals, however the pilgrims are the ones who are much more willing to use force to resolve their problems.
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