Essay Misnomer : Civilized Savages By Joseph Conrad

Essay Misnomer : Civilized Savages By Joseph Conrad

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Misnomer: Civilized Savages
In the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the motif of savagery is listed throughout the book. On page six more specifically we see the passage listed on the cover page. This passage was the first time the narrator, Marlow used the word “savagery” with such passion that the reader has to wonder who he really is speaking about. Could he be talking about the Europeans who thought they were agents of civilization or was he talking about those who had not civilized yet in Africa (natives)? Of course since this passage is on the first few pages of the novel, and it is the first time Marlow is talking about “savages”, “wild men”, and “abomination” many assume he is speaking about the natives in the Congo. Marlow was a European about to embark on a journey that he would regret. He originally thought, “I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings” (pg.16), like most Europeans at the time. The idea that they were going to help the natives civilize was so wonderful, yet they did not know what was really going on in imperialized lands. Marlow had just begun speaking about “very old times”(pg.5) aboard the Nellie and was about to start to talk about his experience in the Congo. But before he began he used the passage from page six to explain to the other sailors of the ugly truth behind the forests, and described it as the savagery and the regrets. This was Marlow’s deep thoughts, he was summarizing the story he was about to tell but in a way no one knew who were the savages, nor what was about to be voiced. This passage fits perfectly to the introduction of Marlow’s long yet fascinating story, it gives the readers a glimpse of the occurrences that would be seen later throughout the bo...


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...ear vague description of the whites who were the savages for their imperialistic, brutal, and careless ways.
It is clear that while Europeans, more specifically Belgiums were not helping the uncivilized civilize because they themselves were not as civilized as they aspired to be. Once in the Congo, they do ruthless things, which later they regret and see as horrific. Joseph Conrad clearly wanted the motif of savagery to be a question of who was or was not the savage. With the passage from page six, it is clear he wanted to be vague about it yet you can clearly see his opinion towards the end of the book. The passage I chose is a ambiguous yet very specific, Conrad wanted it to be towards the beginning, to wrap your head around the motif of savagery. Heart of Darkness will remain one of the most differently interpreted and controversial books for many years to come.

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