Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Joseph Conrad’s novella explores the concept of imperialism and makes reference to the exploration and colonization of Africa. The text itself, which is narrated in a third-person perspective (to subdue the demeaning nature), is bluntly degrading and disparaging toward the natives of Africa. The native African people are blatantly ostracized in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with the author’s use of derogatory and condemning language throughout the text, the juxtaposition and hesitant comparison of the whites and the natives, and the idea presented of the European men being the saviors of Africa.
Rather than display those of Africa as beings, Conrad uses belittling language to not only present the native people as beasts, but to also establish the theme of savagery in the novella. When describing the natives, Joseph Conrad has no hesitation to condemn the people. In Heart of Darkness, the natives of Africa are merely animals when depicted by the author. “All their meagre breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages” (82). Conrad illustrates the natives as barbaric monsters to create a theme of savagery and to lump the people of Africa together as wild beasts. By presenting the natives as mere animals, Conrad excludes them socially, as if they are not capable of sustaining humanity. In doing so, Joseph Conrad allows for the main character, Marlow’s, struggle to be understood by readers.
While Conrad does castigate the natives, he also uses the character of Marlow to question the preconceived European notion of the savagery amongst the people of Africa. Marlow contemplates...

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.... This is showing the European notion of the belief of Africa to be a highly inferior land. Again, Joseph Conrad allows for a major juxtaposition which easily lets readers comprehend the struggle of Marlow to accept the savage natives as human like himself. Through the direct comparison of the white men as saviors of Africa, Joseph Conrad excludes the natives by presenting them as weak.
With extremely deprecating language and poor representation, Joseph Conrad silences the native Africans in Heart of Darkness by glorifying the savagery and inferiority of the natives as compared to the whites. In doing so, Marlow’s internal battle of understanding human versus inhuman and seeing the natives as men akin to himself, is clearly established and understood by readers.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness & The Secret Sharer. New York: Signet Classic, 1997.
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