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Conquest in Heart of Darkness
“ The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” (Conrad 65) So stated Marlow as though this was his justification for ravaging the Congo in his search for ivory. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness shows the disparity between the European ideal of civilization and the reality of it as is evidenced by the domination, torture, exploitation and dehumanization of the African population. Heart of Darkness is indicative of the evil and greed in humanity as personified by Kurtz and Marlow.
These emissaries of light are shown to be crude, sordid and violent. They had no regard for the destruction of Africa’s natural environment, wantonly destroying hills in a feeble attempt to establish a railway, “No change appeared on the face of the rock....the cliff was not in the way or anything; but this objectless blasting was all the work going on.” (Conrad 76) This statement reveals the real motive for venturing into the Congo which was not to bring a better, more civilized lifestyle to the poor, underprivileged Africans; but to satisfy their lust for power. “It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind - as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness.” (Conrad 65)
Just as Victor Frankenstein in the novel Frankenstein created a monster that was a manifestation of his inner turmoil and demons, so too Kurtz and Marlow’s journey into Africa is an unveiling of their inner darkness which we are all afraid to face. Like Grenouille, in Perfume and Victor Frankenstein, Kurtz sought power, adoration and godlike status both among his European counterparts and the native Africans. Just as Grenouille bottled and collected special fragrances so too Kurtz collected human heads displaying them around his hut as trophies. Kurtz’s journey into Africa, as well as his inner journey, can be likened to Grenouille’s hibernation in the cave for seven years or Victor’s search for his monster across the icy slopes. During this period each individual underwent a transformation and a realization of the horrors they have created.
Kurtz’s final words “The horror! The horror!” are comparable to Victor fleeing the scene when faced with the manifestation of his handiwork.
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