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Isolation Leads To Dehumanization Essay

1143 words - 5 pages

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish writer, once said, “isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man.” When comparing this statement to Heart of Darkness it is completely true. In the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad the protagonist, Charlie Marlow, leaves his familiar society for his new job. In order to maintain sanity while isolated from society he dehumanizes the strange people he encounters while there. Heart of Darkness is about the affect of isolation on a person and this novella is best described by the word dehumanizing. Marlow, the Russian, and the natives dehumanize the people around them in order to give themselves hope and to shield themselves from the horror around them.
Charlie Marlow dehumanizes the natives in order to create an emotional barrier between his job and what he witnesses. He has a set of solid beliefs, one of them being that whites are superior to Africans. When Marlow is first at the station, he spies a big shade tree in the distance and decides to investigate. Marlow goes under the tree and finds many African people moaning and waiting to die. Marlow explains, “’They were not enemies, they were not criminals, there were nothing earthly now-nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom’” (Conrad 85). Marlow is struck with horror by this awful sight, but by referring to the natives as only shadows he attempts to detach himself from what he is really seeing. These people symbolize nothing more than shadows to Marlow. By believing this it makes the sight of watching these men die a little less painful and disturbing. Marlow’s natural instinct is to classify a person as a friend or foe and the fact that he cannot label these people as either proves he is trying not to see them as human. These people are the first people he encounters when he reaches the station, so he quickly judges the natives as uncivilized and barbaric and this first impression impacts his view on all the natives throughout the whole rest of the novella. This idea is reinforced when he is told by his boss that, “’ each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing’” (Conrad 111). Marlow is taught that the natives are inhumane and need taming. Marlow thinks of Africans as inferior to whites and he understands why their job is to humanize the natives. Even while Marlow witnesses the Africans being inveigled he does not defend them because even before going to Africa he has always been told that blacks are superior and he honestly believes it. When he is faced with the new and unknown he holds onto what is known and familiar to him. While isolated, he stands strong in his beliefs because they are the few things that keep him sane. Marlow uses the tact of dehumanization to protect himself from what he witnesses while in Africa.
Charlie Marlow, the Russian, and the natives dehumanize Mr. Kurtz in the...

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