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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a novella that explores the imperialism in Africa by the colonialist during the colonial periods. It focuses on the colonial rule of Belgium over Congo and the different Imperialistic anomalies that were taking place through the eyes of Marlow who travels from the outer station to the central station and moves up the Congo River to the inner stations of the Company which was responsible for the trade activities for Belgium within its colony. It is essential to clearly identify the meaning of the term imperialism before conducting an analysis of the matter; this can be defined as a policy of extending a country's power and influence over other independent territories by the means of colonialism, military conquest and by the use of other methods (Hawkins). Conrad uses the literature work to clearly paint a picture to the minds of the reader on what imperialism was and the different impacts it had on the people involved.
Marlow who is an introspective sailor travels upriver Congo under the terms of the Company to meet Kurtz who as seen from the novel as a reputed idealistic man with exceptional abilities and has been in Africa for a while and has managed to harness the power in his region of operation. Colonialism from the work of Conrad is described as a trading relation between Belgium and Congo but in the process of all this Marlow manages to encounter the brutality, the inhuman treatment of the natives by the company in order to achieve their goals (Raskin). All these have been covered within the book and helps the readers focus on the decay of the human character in such of control and wealth.
As Marlow travels in Africa up to Congo, he encounters the native inhabitants who are forced by the company to work for the company where they are forced to work for long hours as well as the ill-treatment at the hands of the Company's agents. The company does not provide fair working terms for the natives, and as seen by Marlow the natives are forced to work under low wages as well as the untold torture imposed on them (Raskin). Most of the experiences and observations made by Marlow happen when his steamship is sunk and takes a few months to repair.
Imperialism seen in the book has been covered up by use of hypocrisy, and the rhetoric justification of the actions used by the Company, all the imperialistic activities happening within the colonized country is referred to as 'trade' by the Company agents. These men from the interactions with Marlow refer there work as trade and justify their actions with the simple explanation of the native's characters as uncivilized that required civilization. The use of brutality to control the natives is seen by the agents as the tool for civilization process among the natives (Hawkins). But for Kurtz, he apparently draws the line of what he does from what is work is perceived to be. He says that he does less of trading but more of taking the ivory by force from the natives and applies all means so as to achieve his goals.
From the novel, it is possible for the reader to hear the echoes of evilness that underlies beneath imperialism. Kurtz, for instance, describes that his treatment towards the natives is more of suppression and extermination. This is one of the most shocking acceptance of the evil enclosed under imperialism as portrayed by Conrad. Kurtz proceeds to explain that he does not hide the simple fact that his methods are unorthodox and to achieve his objectives; he implies the use of violence and intimidation (Hawkins).
From the analysis of the above flow of events, it is possible for the reader to view imperialism from the natives' point of view. The intruders come into their homes, take away their freedom, there lands and wealth and then kill and torture them. This explains the multiple attacks seen within the novel from the natives. The Company reports the assaults as aggressive reactions of the uncivilized natives that require control and the use of brute force as the best approach to the matter (Raskin). The exposure of the actual European activities are hardly exposed to the word due to the multiple layers of lies that cover up the actual facts happening within the continent.
Imperialism in Africa affects the view the colonialist have on the natives, racism is at highest order, the look of the nonwhite people as an object rather than humans, for instance, Marlow refers to his helmsmen as pieces of machinery. The value of life attached to the natives and the Africans is more of a tool of work rather than a human being. We also find him referring to Kurtz mistress as a piece of statuary. This shows the oppression of the nonwhites in a much more sinister manner that one can hardly comprehend. Racism portrayed by the colonial rule and the violence as well. All the analyzed occurrences give the reader a chance to self-evaluate the actions of the colonial rulers, in this case, the Belgium power, and it also paints a picture of the other colonial powers within the region and the experiences shared by the natives under imperialism (Raskin).
Imperialism seen in the book results in the analysis of the moral status of the colonial powers. Morality is a concept that needs to be explained so as to be able to analyze it position under imperialism. Morality can be seen as the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or a bad and good behavior (Raskin). The different activities carried out by the company show the corruption of the human morality. The manifest disregard of what is right due to the power wielded by the colonial rulers.
The decay of morality is seen to also have an impact on the colonial rulers' personal lives. This is seen within the Kurtz current health position. As the reader progress through the book, we get to realize madness is closely related to imperialism in the book. Africa is responsible for the physical and mental disintegration of Kurtz (Hawkins). It is evident that the amount of power that Kurtz holds is responsible for his current condition. From an analysis of the entire situation, it is evident that the excessive brutality and control over the natives tend to affect Kurtz view of life. We are left sympathizing with him and left infuriated by the company for tasking a person with such responsibilities. The continuous treatment of other people as fewer humans is expected to have an impact on one's mental state.
Oppression leads to retaliation by the victim. In our case the natives have been oppressed by the colonial rulers, killed, lands were taken, wives and daughters raped as well as captured as slaves. Such acts result in the resistance of such a rule. Imperialism is responsible for the native attacks on the Company agents. For instance when Marlow and his crew come across a hut with stacked firewood, which has a note that states the wood is for them, but they should approach with care. This shows that the Company was aware of the position they have placed the natives and they can attack any chance they get (Hawkins). And this happens, the attack comes from the forest as the crew picks the stacked wood. In the process, Marlow loses his African helmsmen who are killed.
This show another significant impact of the imperialistic rule by the colonials. It brought divisions among the natives where some sided with the colonial while others resisted. As seen within the book the killed victims during the attack were fellow African men who had picked the imperial side over their own people (Hawkins). This could be seen more like divide and concur strategy by the colonial powers. The weakening of the natives by dividing them into smaller groups enabled them to get full control over the territory.
Imperialism has been seen in different instances within the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The concept has been covered extensively, and the literature analysis has managed to help the reader see its effect on the involved people both the colonialist and the natives. It has also enabled us to analyze the impact it had on an individual level of the interested parties, the loss of lives, slavery, cruelty, and brutality shown to the natives. Racism and the inhuman view of the other race by the white colonialist. All these have been some of the significant matters associated with imperialism. The work by Joseph Conrad helped unearth the reality of the Europeans in Africa and helped expose the hypocrisy used to cover the truth happening within the European colonies. The book also opens the eyes of the reader to what was taking place during the colonial period.
Hawkins, Hunt. "Conrad's Critique of Imperialism in Heart of Darkness." Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (1979): 286-299.
Raskin, Jonah. "Imperialism: Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Journal of Contemporary History 2.2 (1967): 113-131.
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