The Evil of Colonialism Exposed in Heart of Darkness
Marlow was an average European man with average European beliefs. Like most Europeans of his time, Marlow believed in colonialism; that is, until he met Kurtz. Kurtz forces Marlow to rethink his current beliefs after Marlow learns the effects of colonialism deep in the African Congo. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow learns that he has lived his entire life believing in a sugar-coated evil. Marlow's understanding of Kurtz's experiences show him the effects colonialism can have on a man's soul.
In Europe, colonialism was emphasized as a great and noble cause. It was
seen as, the white mans mission to help civilize and improve a savage race.
At the beginning of the book, Marlow talks about the Roman conquest of
Britain and the similar situation to that of Africa. The Romans felt the
British people were savage and looked down on them because they believed
that they had achieved more. I believe Marlow drew this comparison to
ironically show that the Europeans are not as superior as they think and to
demonstrate that they were also once conquered 'savages'. Marlow mockingly
says that what the Romans did "was just robbery with violence, aggravated
murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind" (Conrad 65). He says
the Romans were conquers and not colonialists, and explains that what saves
the colonialist is "the devotion to efficiency" and "the unselfish belief in
the idea"(Conrad 65-66). Yet throughout the novel Marlow's experiences show
how colonialism was just that, the robbing of Africa for ivory and profit by
Europeans. He says there was no improvement in Africa like the Europeans
claimed, "unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet hole in the
forehead...may be considered improvement" (Conrad 81). I think Marlow feels
this is what colonialism really brought to Africa. Some Europeans may have
genuinely believed in the idea of colonialism as being noble, but this
"belief in the idea" cannot save the horrible actions of colonialism or make
Also during this time, around the 1800's, exploration was seen as a
wonderful adventure and the period of mapping out the world was under way.
Europeans saw Africa as a black place on the map waiting to be discovered.
When Marlow was young "[he] had a passion for maps. [He] would look for
hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia and lose [him-self] in all
the glories of exploration" (Conrad 66). Marlow now says, "The glamour's
off"(Conrad 67). I think this shows Marlow's changed attitude towards
colonialism. He was once caught up in the alleged glories of imperialism
and exploration for the pure innocent joy of it, and now he has seen what
this actually brings, and so the glamour and excitement is gone. This...