Gender Role In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Powerful Essays
Gender Role In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

For the most part people who read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad may feel that the novella is strictly a story of exploration and racial discrimination. But to Johanna Smith who wrote “’Too Beautiful Altogether’: Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness” it is much more than that. Johanna Smith along with Wallace Watson and Rita A. Bergenholtz agree that throughout Heart of Darkness there are tones of gender prejudice, but the way that these three different authors perceive and interpret those gender tones are to a certain extent different.

In “Too Beautiful Altogether” Smith points out that even though Heart of Darkness is an especially masculine account, femininity and gender play a deeper role in the story. Smith writes “Marlow’s narrative aims to “colonize” and “pacify” both savage darkness and women” (Smith 189). Furthermore Smith states, “By silencing the native laundress and symbolizing the equally silent savage woman and the company women, Marlow reconstructs his experience of the darkness they stand for. The story’s two speaking European women, Marlow’s aunt and Kurtz’s Intended, perform a similar function. By restricting unsatisfactory feminine versions of imperialist ideology to them, Marlow is able to create his own masculine version to keep the darkness at bay” (Smith 190). For Marlow his story is never meant for a female to read or hear. Marlow feels that his story is far too masculine for and women and because of that the story would be over their head.

To understand Smith’s essay, Smith feels it is important to be aware of her use of the word Ideology. For her the word has two different meanings “to mean not only a conscious system of meaning, e...

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...Darkness’” and Wallace Watson’s “Andrew Michael Roberts. Conrad and Masculinity” are all very persuasive essays that suggest there is in fact a gender theme all throughout Heart of Darkness. Smith, Watson, and Bergenholtz give both Marlow and Conrad a different voice that some readers may miss.

Works Cited

Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. London: Methuen, 1980.

Bergenholtz, Rita. “Conrads’s ‘Heart of Darkness’.” The Explicator. 53.2 (1995):

102. Print.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed Ross Murfin. 3rd ed. Boston, New York: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2011. 3-94.

Smith, Johanna. ‘Too Beautiful Altogether’: Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of

Darkness. Ed. Ross Murfin. 3rd ed. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 189- 203.

Watson, Wallace. “Andrew Michael Roberts. Conrad and Masculinity.” Coradiana. 39.1 (2007):

87. Print.
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