The Meaning of Heart of Darkness in the Post-Colonial Climate

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The Meaning of Heart of Darkness in the Post-Colonial Climate

Since its publication in 1899, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has rarely been disputed on the basis of its literary merits; in fact, it was long seen as one of the great novels of the burgeoning modern era, a sort of bridge between the values and storytelling styles of the waning Victorian period and those of the modern era (Gatten), and regarded a high-ranking space amidst the great literature of the century, if not the millennia (Mitchell 20). Conrad’s literary masterpiece manages references to other great literature, universal themes which cut to the heart of philosophical questions of the innate goodness or evil of man, and historical references such as the Belgium and Roman empires (Kuchta 160), among other accomplishments, and so has garnered a lexicon all its own in the annals of literary criticism, debate, and analysis.

Much consideration given Heart centers around a pivotal concern of the era in which it was written: that of what, in hindsight, were the early death rattles of the heyday of European colonialism, specifically in Africa. There is some debate amongst critics as to whether the novel, ultimately, is a morality tale about human greed, power, and evil (one could toss in deceit, cowardice, and a host of psychological considerations as well), or more a sociological commentary upon the morality of colonialism and imperialism from the point of view of a highly disillusioned expatriate turned agent for the empire, turned anti-imperialist (the character of Marlow in the novel: Conrad himself, in spite of his best efforts to disguise his input behind characterization) (Films for Humanities and Sciences). The truth is almost certainly, ...

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...erald. Teaching the Politics of Heart of Darkness. An Introduction to Literature. Terry, Joseph. New York, NY: Longman, 2001. 1691-1692

Kuchta, Todd. “Envisioning Africa: Racism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.” Victorian Studies 44 (1 October, 2001): 159.

Mitchell, Angus. “New Light on the ‘Heart of Darkness.’” History Today December 1999: p20-28.

Mwikisa , Peter. “Conrad's image of Africa: Recovering African voices in Heart of Darkness.” Mots Pluriels: April 2000.

Ngugi Wa Thingó. Writers in Politic: A Re-engagement with Issues in Literature and Society. Revised and enlarged ed. Nairobi, Oxford and Portsmouth: James Currey,East African Educational Publishers and Heinemann, 1981.

Zeger, Barry. “Sometimes a Cigar is a Large Black Phallus.” Spy Magazine; July/August 1996: 13.

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