Colonialism and Imperialism - European Invasion Depicted in Heart of Darkness

Colonialism and Imperialism - European Invasion Depicted in Heart of Darkness

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The European Invasion in Heart of Darkness

  The viewpoint of the European invasion of Africa, as seen through the eyes of Marlow in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, takes a dramatic turn. At first, Marlow sees through the European viewpoint, where the invasion is a heroic attempt to tame a mysterious culture, while reaping the rewards of the ivory trade. The descriptions of the natives are inhuman, monstrous and fearful. The shift in perception occurs as Marlow begins to see through the eyes of the natives. The result is compassion for an ancient civilization that is very much human in there fear of being conquered.

Part of Marlow's European viewpoint stems from people he respects. From his " excellent aunt's" Christian viewpoint, there is a duty in " weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways"(Longman, P.2199). Marlow becomes influenced by the members in the partnership mostly concerned with obtaining ivory " I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings"(2202). The European viewed conquering the ignorant and using their ivory for wealth as heroic. The description of he manger's office walls contained "a collection of spears, assegais, shields, knives was hung up as trophies"(2208). In addition, the mission of Kurtz becomes " a very important one, in the true ivory-country, the very bottom there" (2204). Here the European viewpoint of invading Africa is heroic verses horrific.

Through the description of hoe Marlow first view the natives; there is an expression of fear felt toward the uncivilized race not viewed as human. After the death of Marlow's African helmsman, Marlow question his sorrow for the loss for a " savage who was no more than a grain of sand in a black Sahara"(2227). In addition, when approaching Kurtz, Marlow's fearful description of an approaching native is " Some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt! It looked fiend-like enough" (2237). The fear of the unfamiliar culture unfolds with " mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons"(2204). In this viewpoint, fear is the European excuse for the invasion.

The shift in Marlow's perception towards the natives develops as compassion for the fear Europeans have inflicted occurs. Marlow sees though the eyes of the natives with " The glimpse of the steamboat had for some reason filled those savages with unrestrained grief" (2221). Unfolding is the discovery that the savages are human after all.

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The source of the Africans grief is defined as the natives watch the boat " thumping, fierce river demon beating the water with its terrible tail and breathing black smoke into the air" (2238). In this viewpoint, the natives see the steamboat as monstrous, as it represents the invasion of there culture. Furthermore, Marlow recognizes the Africans view the Europeans as " supernatural beings" (2226). The transformation of viewpoints translates Marlow's compassion as the mutual fear of the unknown is shared in both races.

Many Europeans thought the invasion of Africa was heroic in controlling the uncivilized and obtaining wealth from the ivory trade. The Africans were viewed as monsters, not an ancient race to be respected for there own customs. In the end, Marlow comes to the realization who the real monsters are, This is evident as Marlow recognizes " It is strange how I accepted the partnership, this choice of nightmares forced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedy phantoms" (2239).

Work Cited

Longman. The Longman Anthology of British Literature, vol. B. Damrosch, D. NY, LA: Addison Wesley Longman.
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