The White Collars in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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The White Collars in Heart of Darkness

In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Charles Marlow relates to his listeners aboard the Nellie the story of his service with a European company operating in the African Congo. Arriving in this European country to interview for employment, Marlow recalls, "I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a white sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt" (73). But whose prejudice is he speaking of: his or that of the citizens of that commercial center? Either way, his image is prophetic. The white sepulchre contains the remains of the countless Africans slaughtered by these colonizers--not in the form of corpses, but in the wealth that has been stolen from the African continent. The significance of the sepulchre's whiteness (and that of the longed-for ivory) lies in the contrasting images of a piece of white worsted and the starched white collars that Marlow comes upon in the jungles of the Congo. While the collars represent the violence, oppression, and hatred that dominate the European's treatment of the African, the white worsted is an attempt by ...

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes the significance of the sepulchre's whiteness, and that of longed-for ivory, lies in the contrasting images of white worsted and starched white collars that marlow comes upon.
  • Analyzes how marlow seeks shade from the daytime heat and the sun's direct rays, but finds himself in the gloomy circle of some inferno. the starving black men are victims of a white plague that has enslaved them to do work.
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