The Monster of Imperialism in Joseph Conrad's Novel, Heart of Darkness

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Like a trite high school scandal involving backstabbing friends and scheming girls, imperialism during the 19th century turned previously upright Europeans into treasure-seeking ogres willing to renege on their promises. As a British merchant marine who travelled to the Congo, Joseph Conrad witnessed his fellow imperialistic sailors partake in horrid acts, and his experiences induced him to write his chilling book Heart of Darkness. In this book, published in 1899, Marlow meets both a sycophantic manager seeking to advance up the corporate ladder and a vicious Kurtz willing to murder indiscriminately. Yet despite Kurtz’s paramount evilness, Marlow gives his loyalties to Kurtz instead of to the company manager since Kurtz always remains conscious about the atrocities he commits. While the manager may not seem very powerful or evil, Marlow feels disgust over his fawning and almost useless nature. At first, Marlow thinks of the manager as an unremarkable, soulless person who “had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even…his position had come to him… [Only] because he was never ill” (Conrad 28). Even the manager himself implicitly agrees with Marlow’s idea when he hypothesizes how “men who come out here should have no entrails” (28). With that quote, the manager insinuates how the gloomy fog and endless jungle engulfing him has killed off all of his vitality and determination, leaving only a mindless husk behind. This mindlessness best shows when Marlow overhears the manager and his uncle slandering Kurtz’s “[frightful] influence… which has caused the Administration to send him to the Interior” (43). Instead of increasing productivity in his own division, the manager envies other people for their hard-earned success... ... middle of paper ... ... detest lies and deliver news bluntly. Marlow and Kurtz’s personalities share many similarities, explaining why Marlow sides with Kurtz and not the manager. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, published in 1899, Marlow sides with Kurtz over the company manager due to Kurtz’s awareness of the atrocities he authorizes. The mysterious lands of the Congo hinder Marlow from differentiating reality from illusion, but this difficulty leads him to value honesty and bluntness more than a boatload of ivory. The truth still hides today beneath mazes of fine print and Photoshopped images. Yet like Kurtz, strong-willed souls today still expose the ugly truth for all to see, and no matter what these people’s moral character, a person cannot help but admire their audacity to open society’s eyes. Works Cited Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Fairfield: 1st World Library, 2006. Print.

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