Heart Of Darkness Essay

1219 words - 5 pages

In the nineteenth century, a drastic change known as the Scramble for Africa occurred. Leading the race of the new imperialism was the never setting sun that was the British Empire; as it looted, killed, and destroyed Africa, the greatest empire in the world gave little consideration to the native inhabitants of the land. Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, is an exciting account of an arduous expedition into the darkest part of Africa following an English marine merchant, Marlow, as he travels through the African jungle and up the Congo river in search for a mysterious man named Kurtz. Through Marlow's voyage, Conrad provides a disdainful narration, denouncing the European colonial exploitation inflicted upon African natives. Through his use of irony, characters, and symbolism in the novel, Conrad aims to unveil the underlying horrors of colonialism. By shedding light on the brutality of colonialism in Heart of Darkness, Conrad shows that the European civilization has been irrevocably eclipsed by darkness.
The true nature of colonialism is exposed in Heart of Darkness in the form of irony which is used through being cynical of the entire process. The portrayal of Kurtz is just one example of Conrad using irony to denounce the European ideals of the time. Kurtz morphs from a highly respected ivory gatherer into a savage. Leading agent of the company in gathering ivory, he yields more ivory than all of the other agents combined. He is regarded as a “prodigy. . . an emissary of pity, and science, and progress. . . [a] guidance for the cause intrusted to us by Europe. . .” (Conrad 33). As the novel progresses, the method in which the ivory is delivered to the company becomes abnormal. Soon Kurtz begins sending the ivory downriver in canoes piloted by savages who are surprisingly led by Kurtz. He comes to the station he would eventually command with savages at this beck and call to gather ivory, but he loses himself in the savages' way of life and rituals eventually becoming a savage himself. The ironic aspect lies in the fact that Kurtz is supposedly the best of all the agents, a “universal genius” of all trades (105). However, even Kurtz, a man who believes he knows how to bend the minds of others into submission, is transformed into a savage. Another prominent instance of irony in the novel is the shift in Marlow's attitude towards Kurtz. From the various bits of information he has been told about Kurtz, his opening impressions are very adverse, but after the journey up the Congo River, Marlow becomes an admirer of Kurtz harboring strong feelings of respect and friendship. It is expected that Marlow continue to react to Kurtz in the same adverse manner as he did at the start of the novel; however the opposite occurs. Marlow becomes so attached to Kurtz that he uses all his powers of persuasion to bring Kurtz back to the ship. Marlow then tells the reader that he could “not betray Mr. Kurtz—it was ordered I should...

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