Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is, as Edward Said states a story about European "acts of imperial mastery" (1503)-its methods, and the effects it has on human nature. Furthermore I hold the presumption that Conrad incorporates much of his own experience in the Congo and his opinions about imperialism. Another recent critic also suggests: "he seems to approve of Marlow," the narrator (Achebe 1492). These revelations of the author are conveyed to the reader through Marlow's observations, descriptions, reactions, and statements.
Whilst "Heart of Darkness" is at times very critical of European imperialism, that criticism for the most part is directed at the false idealistic claims made about the enterprise and the inefficient and savage methods employed by the Belgians; the book does not question imperialism when undertaken competently, particularly by the British. What is questioned is the brutality held within the false ideals of helping the people.
The opening discussion in "Heart of Darkness" between Marlow and his friends, is about an idealistic imperialism of conquerors, especially English, who were "bearers of a spark from the sacred fire"-the fire of civilization (1428). Marlow once too had "tingled with enthusiasm" at the thought of imperialism, as his friends do during their recollection of the past. However this was before his experience in the Congo, where he uncovers the crudeness of the Belgians. Imperialism, to Marlow, is not always "a pretty thing," but if the conquest of land is approached in an organized, efficient, and moralistic way, it can be considered redeemable by "an idea" (1430). The idea refers to "moral ideas" that Kurtz once had of humanizing...
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Barnet, Sylvan, et al. An Introduction to Literature. 11th ed. NY: Longman, 1997.
Bradley, Candice (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lawrence Univ.). "Africa and Africans in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." A Lawrence University Freshman Studies Lecture, 24 Jan. 1996. Available: http://www.freespeech.org/james/conrad/heart.htm (Accessed: 2 Apr. 2002)
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness, New York: Dover, 1990.
Dintenfass, Mark. "Heart of Darkness: A Lawrence University Freshman Studies Lecture." 14 Mar. 1996.
Available: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~csicseri/dintenfass.htm* (Accessed : 2 Apr. 2002).
Hayes, Dorsha. "Heart of Darkness: An Aspect of the Shadow," Spring (1956): 43-47..
McLynn, Frank. Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa. New York: Carol & Gey, 1992.
Said, Edward W. "The Imperial Attitude." Barnet 1502.
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