Imperialism has been a constant oppressive force upon societies dating back hundreds of years. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, illustrates this oppression by providing an instance of its occurrence in the Congo of Africa, while simultaneously setting the stage for The Poisonwood Bible, which is essentially the continuation of the story. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, demonstrates how the Congo is still affected by modern circumstances and ideology. Conrad’s novella acts as a sort of precursor to the events later depicted in Kingsolver’s novel, and this very connection between the stories illustrates the perpetual oppression of imperialism. This oppression is shown through the characterization of the pivotal characters of each respective text.
The oppression, which is inflicted upon the Congo in the hope of spreading imperialism, is highlighted by the main characters. Both Kurtz and Nathan seek to change the very lives and beliefs of the people of the Congo and establish supremacy over them, and both of these characters share a heart of darkness and a tainted determination in their endeavor. For Conrad’s pivotal character, the level of intelligence, sophistication, and civilization is the true dilemma in Africa. Kurtz goes to the Congo in order to civilize an uncivilized people, to make “savages” into upstanding men and women who can contribute to the productivity of society. Kingsolver, conversely, illustrates the push for a conversion of both church and state. The Poisonwood Bible depicts an invasion into a society, not merely of a people grouped together into “savages”, and shows that society being warped and forced to conform to American ideology. Rather than the sophistication of its people, Nathan journ...
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...ion of imperialism has evolved. In both Heart of Darkness by Conrad, and The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver, Africa is invaded and altered to conform to the desires of more “civilized” people. While this oppression in the Congo never seems to cease, the natives are consistently able to overcome the obstacles, and the tyrants, and thus prove to be civilized in their own regard and as capable of development as the white nations. As Orleanna says herself: “Call it oppression, complicity, stupefaction, call it what you’d like…Africa swallowed the conqueror’s music and sang a new song of her own” (Kingsolver 385). Kingsolver illustrates that though individuals may always seek to control and alter the region, the inhabitants and victims of the tyranny and oppression live on and continue past it, making the state of the area almost as perpetual as the desire to control it.
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