Joseph Conrad Is More Critical Of Whites Than Blacks In Heart Of Darkness

2356 words - 9 pages

An essay arguing that Joseph Conrad is more critical of Whites than Blacks in Heart of Darkness

To the vast majority of Europeans of the 19th century, colonization was a noble cause that brought civilization, Christianity and culture to underdeveloped civilizations. Many Europeans believed that they were welcomed abroad and were improving societies in the name of God. Far ahead of his time, Joseph Conrad saw the hypocrisy with this thinking. In his novella Heart of Darkness Conrad is much more critical of the European characters than the native African characters. Conrad shows this in four different ways. First, he shows he is more critical of the Europeans than the Africans by negatively portraying the European Pilgrims and praising the African Cannibals. Secondly, Conrad attaches many negative traits to the European women of the novel while glorifying the African woman he portrays in the novel. Thirdly, the relationship between Africans and Europeans shows Conrad is more critical of Europeans than Africans. Finally, by portraying the Europeans as aggressors and the Africans as victims, Conrad shows he is more critical of Europeans than Africans.

The first reason why Conrad is more critical of Europeans than Africans in his novella is because of how Conrad negatively portrays the European Pilgrims and praises the African Cannibals by depicting the Pilgrims as evil, ruthless and cruel aggressors who terrorize the Cannibals and Africans. An example of this is when Marlow, the Pilgrims and the Cannibals are ambushed by a group of Africans who attack them possibly on Kurtz's behalf or because they want to protect Kurtz. Using their superior weaponry, the Pilgrims inflict great casualties on the Africans, which lead one Pilgrim to say “ Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh?” (87). This is ironic because the Europeans of Marlow’s time most likely saw Africans are a warlike, savage people. However, Conrad shows that it is the European pilgrims carrying out and celebrating a massacre, which proves they are acting more warlike and more like barbarians than the Africans. The Pilgrims also show their cruelty when they make sure the Africans starve by throwing the Africans' hippo meat off Marlow’s ship. Already starving and suffering due to their lack of food, the Cannibals could have eaten the five white men onboard because according to Marlow they outnumbered the Europeans thirty to five and were described as large, powerful men. However, Marlow is surprised by the Cannibals ability to deal with their extreme hunger and claims they show great restraint by not eating the Europeans. Marlow compliments the Cannibals when he says that the Cannibals were “Fine fellows…They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them.” (57). It is clear that Conrad is more critical of the European Pilgrims than the African Cannibals during the ambush. It is logical that the average European during Conrad’s time, who...

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