Marlow's Racism In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

3662 words - 15 pages

Marlow's Racism in Heart of Darkness   

 
    Heart of Darkness is an intriguing story as well as a symbol for Joseph Conrad's social commentary on imperialism.  Marlow's journey takes him deep into the African Congo where he bears witness to a number of life-altering revelations.  He beholds his most striking revelation when he begins to compare the "civilized European man" with the "savage African man."  These two opposing forces represent the two conflicting viewpoints present in every dilemma, be it cultural, social, or otherwise.  As a modern European man who believes religiously in imperialism, Marlow is inherently arrogant.  Yet, although he cannot accept the African jungle as being equally important as imperialism, his experiences there lead him to believe otherwise.  Essentially, this is Marlow's inner conflict.  Everything he has believed in his entire life seems to crumble around him.  His view of the civilized white man becomes tainted when he sees that society is merely a form of delusion, denying its members the greater truth of the world.  “The superficial boundaries of society have no meaning in the jungle, and Marlow has trouble dealing with this revelation”(Bancroft 37).  Marlow's inability to accept this initially prevents him from eliminating his intellectual arrogance and feelings of moral superiority over the savages.  For the most part, Marlow is unaware of his prejudicial attitude, but he eventually comes to realize the whole truth of the world.  

 

     Marlow says that the colonizer who goes to Africa must meet the jungle with " 'his own true stuff-with his own inborn strength. Principles? Principles won't do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags-rags that would fly off at the first good shake? No; you want a deliberate belief.'"* The inherent strength of civilized people is in our ability to trust to faith, to believe so much in something that it will preserve our sense of self even when it is threatened by total absence of, even the opposite conditions of, all that formed to make it. The Africans fascinate Marlow, lure that part of him that wants to escape from the surface-realities created by sociality. Is it a deliberate belief that saves him from asserting his attraction, or an accident of situation? "'You wonder I didn't go ashore for a howl and a dance? Well, no-I didn't. Fine sentiments, you say? Fine sentiments be hanged! I had no time. I had to mess about with white-lead and strips of woollen blanket helping to put bandages on those leaky steam-pipes, I tell you. ...There was surface-truth enough in these things to save a wiser man.'"* The technological realities of civilized man happened to allow him to focus his thoughts on work. “This reconciles with the notion of a 'deliberate belief' because Marlow unshakeably believes that work contains truth (and he can assert this truth against the truth of the Africans) and is not another system of surface-reality”(Hubbard 125) . Marlow sees his journey...

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