Heart of Darkness Essays

Essay About Heart Of Darkness

In Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart Of Darkness, Conrad explores the plurality of truths of some European companies working during the height of the ivory trade in the 1800s, seizing central parts of Africa along the Congo River. This explores the imperialistic ideas that were expressed throughout Europe and then later placed their ideas into African colonies. Conard also explores the truths through a point of view of a chameleon-like character such as Charles Marlow, that is constantly questioning his morality and persona around characters such as Kurtz. Conard exposes the imperialistic ideas and the horrific treatment that happened to the villagers while away working for the company. Overall, get the attention of Europeans that this is how they get their luxury items and create awareness to future buyers. Questioning if the buyer’s morality alines with the importance of social appearance and the number of items that they own or with human ethics. Not only to prove one’s morality at the time, but the morality of a modern society based on control and power over the weak and incapable human beings. To show people have the ability to be evil even when they believe they do not have the motive to do so. Leaving the question to the readers, if they are any different?

Imperialism is the idea of expanding one’s territory by taking over another country or nation. There are many reasons for imperialism but often times it is for having military bases and having access to natural resources that others do not have. Imperialistic nations that are more dominant and strong, take advantage of smaller underdeveloped, and weaker countries because the weaker nations do not have resources like a strong military to defend themselves against the invader. When the company Marlow works for ships out him and his crew to meet with Kurtz at the inner station, Marlow was told by his crew members that the company does this work as a form of “trading” with an underprivileged nation to support them as well as help the African civilization progress in a more civil society. But that was just a foreshadowing effect setting up for the unexpected casualties waiting for Marlow when he docks to meet Kurtz. As Marlow docks, he notices the ultramasculine persona of Kurtz has when he speaks about the “trading process” with the natives. Kurtz does not hide the fact that he takes things, such as ivory, with force and uses physical abuse with the native Africans. Kurtz believes he does this as a form of controlling the “savages”. Ultimately, using intimidation and violent tactics to prove that the civil ways of the white man are more effective. Dismembering the native’s form of government from a psychological standpoint to show the natives that their leaders are incapable, not strong, and easily destroyed.

This allows Kurtz’s job to be easier, but Marlow seems to stand by and watch the abuse with feeling darkness in his heart and apprehensiveness. As the reader continues to get to know Marlow, he shows to be a compassionate person towards the natives, though he does not express it externally. Yet, with the futility of the situation, Marlow feels he has no choice but to watch. Which also makes the reader question, why he does it so privity? Marlow did serval attempts to show his compassion quietly. He treated the natives well, tried to feed one native a small portion of his meal, but there was one event that makes the reader feel uncertain by the action Marlow made. While on a boat, his helmsman was shot by a spear from a fellow village and Marlow was watching him die. Marlow describe his expression while he was dying and the way how it made Marlow feel, “I had to make an effort to free my eyes from his gaze and attend to the steering.”. Marlow knew that he was going to die even if he helped get the spear out. It shows more about his character when he decides to ignore the death of his helmsman and what he decided to do with his body. Marlow threw his body overboard so the rest of the cannibals on board would not eat the body. Though the initial action does sound cruel to the reader, Marlow’s intention seems sincere to protect the body from being eaten. His connection with his helmsman might not have been strong but the idea of Marlow’s view, seeing the “savages” eating on a body would have made him feel that it was his fault for letting his body be abused as so instead of letting the body be.

Marlow’s questionable actions do have answers to why he does everything. During the time, it was a social norm to be cruel to the slaves working for the company. Though Marlow did not believe in his heart that it was the correct way of doing things, but he still let the abuse happen. Conrad made Marlow the key to this novella. Imperialism and futility go hand and hand. The darkness in ones heart, such as Marlow’s heart is full with the guilt that he had and including the empathy for the natives yet, he did nothing about it to help them get out or stand up for them. Many other people, like Conrad during the time did not believe this was a moral way to treat humans. Conrad purpose was to expose the uncovered truths of the trading business and human behavior, taking a huge influence from when he traveled to the Congo himself. The underlying truth is that a person will act cruel if there is no requirement to treat anyone well. Even if their morality goes against treating a person badly, they will still do it because they have control just like Marlow. Conrad showed that people can be incentive “savages”. Conrad wanted to prove that everyone is capable of evil. Even when people believe they are not capable of doing evil thing or having evil intentions. Subconsciously, whenever we have the opportunity of doing evil things to other people, knowing we do not have consequences because they have the control and power, they are not going to stop since the feeling of power is addictive. Conrad took his own experience with evil deeds during his time in the Congo to spread awareness that everyone, no matter of the amount of morality or the belief that one is a good person. Everyone has the capability to do evil things if someone does not have consequences when they have the power to control the punishment of others actions.

Imperialism and fruitily can go beyond just taking over nations for the benefit of ones self. But it can be placed in any life or death situation. Conrad wrote the novella in a time were it was contraverty and a unusual topic to have different opinions on. Though, the plot can be placed in any day to day situation. Many examples would be, a fellow co-worker got a promotion and they are feeling intitled to treat people with disrespect, even when before their promotion they did not treated anyone that way. It is protective of the powerful, once people are given such a job it gets in their head. Conrad also places the good within the evil, Marlow, but he still has evil in his heart. Marlow is confused on his place within the society in the Congo. He wants to be a good person yet, he does the opposite. Now, the reader many say why so? Well it is the imperialism ideas and the strict entitlement of those around him that makes him not want to act upon his feels to protect the slaves out if fear of some sort of punishment from Kurtz or any other leader from the company. Conrad uses Marlow as a weighting tool, to measure the good vs evil. One thing can tilt the scale and make him feel better about himself and also make the reader feel good about his actions and the type of character he is. But on the other hand, He contradicts himself which also tilts the scale, which makes the reader question his character again. Conrad knows that no one can be all good when it comes to this situation with imperialism and fear, because people fall short out of fear of being punished. But does this mean that the entire human race is evil? Yes, it does. Marlow does do good deeds but is it enough? Conrad makes this notably when Marlow does nothing to help the slaves get to freedom or some type of safety. Which overall, is the theme of the novella, the darkness in ones heart is when a action is committed but the action is not enough, is has left a whole to be filled with the deed that was meant to help the weak in that situation. Marlow was meant to help the slaves but did not out of fear which cause him in the end to go mad. In conclusion, this novella was meant for self-reflection on the parts of ourselves that we believe to be good but aren’t. Humanity is to blame for all the ugliness in the world that will leave our heart in darkness. 

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