Conrad's View's Of Imperialism As Expressed In Heart Of Darkness. Ap Literature Essay

895 words - 4 pages

Conrad: Kill WhiteyIndigenous peoples of Africa die every day because of war, famine, and disease largely due to the legacy of European imperialism. Joseph Conrad, who saw firsthand "the horror" (Conrad 154) of imperialism as a ship captain, sought to change public opinion and call attention to the atrocities committed. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad articulates his negative view of imperialism as oppressive and hypocritical through contrasts and parallels of Africa and EuropeConrad's sympathetic portrayal of natives and demonizing portrayal of the Europeans makes the reader actively despise the institution of imperialism by forcing them to condemn the actions of Europeans in every circumstance presented. In his journey to the inner station, Marlow captains a ship that is crewed by cannibals and carries Pilgrims. Conrad sets up a decisive contrast as Marlow observes with puzzlement that the cannibals act restrained, even though the Pilgrims throw out their food. Marlow, acting as the European perspective "saw that something restraining, one of those human secret that baffle probability, had come into play here," (Conrad 116). While this situation of native cannibals versus European pilgrims illustrates a distinct difference in behavior, other incidents stand out as well; most of Marlow's encounters portray the natives not as villains, but as victims. At the central station he watches as a black man is beaten by whites for "[they] said he had caused the fire in some way; be that as it may, he was screeching most horribly," (Conrad 92). Here, Marlow characteristically infused doubt as to the man's guilt, through the "be that as it may" clause, that further shows victimization. But how much of this behavior is fiction? Avrom Fleishman writes that in his other works, Conrad consistently demonstrates how Europeans in their contact with natives show an emergence of "submerged barbarism" and that "whites become more savage than the savages," (Fleishman 157). This pattern of role reversal allows Conrad to easily defame imperialists through their beastly and "Savage" actions.If Africa houses and nurtures evil, Conrad attempts to parallel it in Europe. Before Marlow begins to tell his story the narrator remarks on his surroundings, frequently interlacing descriptions of settings with foreshadows of doom, making London and the Thames part of the world Marlow is about to take the boatmen into. The sun is described as being "stricken to death," (Conrad 67) implying that evil lurks not just in and amongst the denizens of Africa, but here in Europe too in the relative safety of the Thames. Chinua Achebe in his indictment of Conrad as a racist admits a parallel between the Congo River and the Thames, stating "the Thames, too, 'has been one of the darkest places on earth,'" (Achebe 1). The evil in Europe then must...

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