Missing Women

971 Words4 Pages
In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, there is an inadequate depiction of female characters. This can be directly related to the concept of the idealistic woman in European society because the common view of women in the 19th century was that they were the inferior sex. Men, usually European, were perceived as the explorers and the colonizers. Women, on the other hand, were house wives and could never measure to a man’s status in society. Joseph Conrad describes only three main women in his novel: the aunt of Marlow, Kurtz’s mistress, and Kurtz’s fiancée. These characters, limited in their descriptions, are supposed to represent the commonly perceived and stereotypical positions of women in society, i.e.: the aunt, the mistress, and the loyal fiancée. Conrad’s limited depiction of females in his novel is criticized in Jeremy Hawthorn’s “The Women of Heart of Darkness”, in which he argues that problems of gender are entwined with issues of race and culture. He supports his claim by stating that “It is European men who are sent to Africa to further the aims of imperialism; but we see European women- ignorant of what their menfolk are really doing for imperialism- offering powerful ideological support to them.” This shows that the Intended and the Aunt are representations of idealism. They are represented as the common housewives who are cut off from the reality of the horror in Africa. However, Kurtz’s mistress witnesses the imperialism. The ideology of imperialism is the practice of forcefully extending a nation's authority over the territory, political system, or economic life of another country. European men practiced imperialism and focused their attention on Africa in the 19th century. The fact that Conrad decided not t... ... middle of paper ... ...and is living the reality that other two female characters are not subjected to. All in all, Jeremy Hawthorn’s argument is evident in the three main female roles. He argues that one’s gender is intertwined with the problems of race and culture. Marlow’s aunt is a racist woman and believes that the Africans need to be stripped of their culture and be forced to learn the European way. The African mistress is a strong and passionate woman that cares for her cultures welfare. She represents the life of the Congo in relation to her appearance and characteristics. In contrast, the intended is a sickly woman that thinks so highly of her beloved Kurtz that anything negative said about him could destroy her. All three women played minor roles, but their gender allowed Conrad to be able to convey the issues of their different races and their very opposite culture.
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