Joseph Conrad’s novella explores the concept of imperialism and makes reference to the exploration and colonization of Africa. The text itself, which is narrated in a third-person perspective (to subdue the demeaning nature), is bluntly degrading and disparaging toward the natives of Africa. The native African people are blatantly ostracized in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with the author’s use of derogatory and condemning language throughout the text, the juxtaposition and hesitant comparison of the whites and the natives, and the idea presented of the European men being the saviors of Africa.
Rather than display those of Africa as beings, Conrad uses belittling language to not only present the native people as beasts, but to also establish the theme of savagery in the novella. When describing the natives, Joseph Conrad has no hesitation to condemn the people. In Heart of Darkness, the natives of Africa are merely animals when depicted by the author. “All their meagre breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages” (82). Conrad illustrates the natives as barbaric monsters to create a theme of savagery and to lump the people of Africa together as wild beasts. By presenting the natives as mere animals, Conrad excludes them socially, as if they are not capable of sustaining humanity. In doing so, Joseph Conrad allows for the main character, Marlow’s, struggle to be understood by readers.
While Conrad does castigate the natives, he also uses the character of Marlow to question the preconceived European notion of the savagery amongst the people of Africa. Marlow contemplates the humanity of the natives with, “And the men were—No, they were not inhuman” (109). This shows the character’s internal struggle of seeing the people of Africa as savages or as human beings. Though Conrad does allow for the savagery of the natives to be questioned, the author omits the vulnerability of the natives and portrays them as undomesticated savages who “shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks—these chaps; they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement” and a lack of humanity. Through his exclusion of the humanness of the people of Africa in his novella, Joseph Conrad silences the group of natives by presenting them as animalistic savages.
Conrad continuously uses condemning language to degrade the stance of the native people in his novella. The author goes as far as exhibiting the land itself as an uninhabitable, evil place. As described, “The earth seemed unearthly” (108). Even the mere ground of which the marginalized group of natives walks upon is unearthly, leaving the people themselves inhuman. As well as presenting the land as unlivable, Conrad degrades Africa with the just the simple title of the text, Heart of Darkness. This...