Heart of Darkness as Social Protest

999 Words2 Pages

Heart of Darkness as Social Protest

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, is an intriguing and extremely

disturbing portrayal of man's surrender to his carnal nature when all

external trappings of "civilization" are removed. This novel excellently

portrays the shameful ways in which the Europeans exploited the Africans:

physically, socially, economically, and spiritually.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Europeans treated their African

counterparts savagely. They were beaten, driven from their homes, and

enslaved. Heart of Darkness is no exception. In the first section of the

novel, Marlow is disgusted by the condition of the Africans at the First

Station. His encounter with the chain gang sickens him to the point where

he is forced to wait for them to pass. He even takes a separate path to

avoid encountering them again.

While avoiding the chain gang, Marlow stumbles upon the object of

their work-"a vast artificial hole...the purpose of which I found it

impossible to divine." Apparently, to keep them occupied and thus "out of

trouble," the natives are forced to do meaningless, pointless exercises.

Marlow is shocked by this total subjugation of the Africans and the

completely pointless work which they are forced to perform.

Prior to 1807, the Europeans directly enslaved the Africans. After

1807, Britain, and eventually most European countries, banned the slave

trade. However, this did not stop the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, whose

members Marlow described as "reckless without hardihood, gree...

... middle of paper ...

...heads of the natives he killed, those "heads on

the stakes" with their faces turned toward the house, to show his complete

and total dominance over their lives. After this, the natives could not

but help view him with a supernatural aura. He also forced anyone

approaching him to crawl on all fours and grovel at his feet. This,

coupled with the fact that he did not allow very many people to see him,

reinforced his god-like authority.

In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, the

Europeans shamelessly exploited the Africans. Conrad, who had been to

Africa, makes no effort to gloss over the gross abuses of power of the

Europeans and their inhumane treatment of the natives. Taken in this light,

Heart of Darkness serves as an excellent novel of social protest.

More about Heart of Darkness as Social Protest

Open Document