The Hypocrisy Of Imperialism: A Critique Of "An Outpost Of Process"

1168 words - 5 pages

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries imperialism was rampant. Most of Europe was trying to claim colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. The desire to acquire prosperity in this manner was rationalized at the time by most colonial powers. This rationalization essentially claimed that the technologically more advanced Europeans had a duty to take on "the white man's burden" as they called it, and bring light and progress to darker countries. The magnitude of the greed that prompted this colonization and the lengths individuals were willing to go to for such prestige and wealth is revealed by Joseph Conrad in his short story "An Outpost of Progress" by examining the hypocrisy of colonial domination, the weaknesses of the main characters and the society from which they come, and the inevitable collapse of the entire operation due to the blatant exploitation of the Africans.

Kayerts and Carlier, the two men who are in charge of the outpost, are insignificant pawns that are part of a large and merciless operation to colonize Africa. The façade of the European nations is one of taking on the "white man's burden," in order to bring light to darkest Africa when in fact the ultimate goal is to acquire wealth, power, and prestige. Instead of focusing their efforts on the enlightenment of the Africans as they claimed was their purpose, Kayerts and Carlier were more concerned with the "exceptional opportunity for them to distinguish themselves and to earn more percentages on the trade." (The Harbrace Anthology of Literature pg. 930 ) The two men read a book titled "Our Colonial Expansion" that "spoke much of the rights and duties of civilization," (pg. 933) and "extolled the merits of those who went about bringing light, faith and commerce to the dark places of the earth." (pg. 933) Unfortunately these two men utilize this book to justify what they are doing in Africa and indulge in fantastic ideas involving individuals reading about them being "the first civilized men to live in this very spot." (pg. 933) Kayerts and Carlier are supposedly posted in Africa to revolutionize the culture, however they lack any knowledge of the country they reside in. It's incredibly hypocritical to attempt to change a culture they are completely ignorant about. It is a vast land that, because of it's "pure unmitigated savagery," (pg. 931) exerts more control over them than they have over the country. Despite their best efforts to remain in control and due to the fact that their society requires them to "live on condition of being machines," (pg. 931) Kayerts and Carlier are overcome by the oppressive nature of the immeasurable wilderness. They begin to deteriorate mentally as they are overwhelmed by the wild. They refer to the Africans as savages many times when it is apparent that they themselves revert to savagery when one asks the other for the sugar and commences to kill him when it becomes a heated argument. The fact that Kayerts...

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