Essay on Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness

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Imperialism Exposed in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is, as Edward Said says, a story about European "acts of imperial mastery" (1503)-its methods, and the effects it has on human nature-and it is presumable that Conrad incorporates much of his own experience in the Congo and his opinions about imperialism into the story, as another recent critic also suggests: "he seems to approve of Marlow," the narrator (Achebe 1492). These revelations of the author are conveyed to the reader through Marlow's observations, descriptions, reactions, and statements. While "Heart of Darkness" is at times very critical of European imperialism, that criticism for the most part is directed at the false idealistic claims
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The idea is the sort of "moral ideas" that Kurtz once had of humanizing, improving, and instructing, but Marlow comes to see that even a "prodigy's" ideas can be consumed by wilderness, savagery, and greed.

When Marlow first receives his appointment with the company, he thinks that the Belgians are "full of it," full of the excitement of "running an over-sea empire" strictly for the profit from trade (1433). Our current use of the phrase "full of it" could also be applied, in that Marlow does not condone the way the Belgians are approaching imperialism. His judgment of the Belgians may be partly due to the fact that most of his confidence in imperialism lies within the red part of the map, England, where the "real work is being done." He is even more disappointed in the Belgians' approach to trade when he sees the overturned truck, decaying machinery, the natives chained together, and the natives dying in the shade (1437). The natives of the Congo cannot even comprehend what is happening to them: "the outraged law had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea." This unexplainable force came into their land, taking ivory in return for cheap manufactured goods such as cotton, beads, and brass wire. As Marlow says, the only way they could profit from these inexpensive goods would be to "swallow the wire itself, or make loops out of it to snare fish with" (1457). Not only are the methods of the Belgians

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