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By Kaye

In “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, the author states his experiences as captain of a steamer in the Congo River for a Belgium trade company. The author tells his story through elaborated language usage and the hypocrisy of Imperialism in his time.  For instance, Chinua Achebe fiercely criticized Joseph Conrad and consequently the novel, saying that “Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist” and the novel is “offensive and deplorable” (107). There are many interesting dual aspects in the novel such as good and evil, man and nature, colonialism as means of “civilization” and “improvement of natives” when, in reality, it was exploitation.

“It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: “Exterminate all the brutes!”” (50), indicates how the Europeans see the Africans as mere objects that can be discarded if high functionality is not achieved.  Another excerpt that demonstrates the classical English Liberal perspective in which portrays the natives in Africa as savages and cannibals is:  “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force- nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. 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. 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 (82) […]” Last but not least, “It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough […]” (49).

Those passages demonstrate how the effects of colonialism were apathetically seen by Conrad. Although he amply describes the atrocities suffered by the Africans through language embellishment, he remains indifferent to their suffering and even justifies exploitation in the name of “progress” and “civilization”. Obviously, Conrad’s views describe him as a man of his time and place which, in my opinion, does not justify colonialism policies and colonial violence. The Africans are not characterized in the novel, they are dehumanized, and, Africa is a mere scenario. Power, moral and values seem to be enigmas that the author tries to decipher in the novel.


Davis, Paul, Gary Harrison, David Johnson, Patricia Smith, and John Crawford, eds. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature: The Twentieth Century, 1900- The Present. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. New York: Bedford / ST. Martins, 2003. 1448. Print.