Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” Essay
Heart of Darkness serves as a remarkable novella by famous English writer Joseph Conrad. Apparently created in the form of a long story about the wonderful voyage made by the narrator as well as the protagonist Marlow, the work elucidates several concepts and traits attributed to the subjugated African countries of the colonial era. The author has paid particular consideration towards the cruelties and injustices practiced by the Belgian imperialists upon the indigenous population, which used to lead a very simple life, which could rightly be compared to savage living standard with little education and almost no mannerism. Hence, the novel serves as a precious document indicating the history of African culture, civilization and the traditions of late nineteenth century era.
Divided into three parts, the story of the novel begins with the steamboat Captain named Marlow, intended to narrate the detailed accounts of his long voyage of the Congo River, which was under the Belgian control those days. Conrad has alluded to black color in many occasions- from the two female officials’ knitting black wool to the journey towards the land of dark, downtrodden and disappointed African subjects, leading a dark, drab, dull, dismal and defoliated life as slaves to the white imperialism; from the dark rags of the slaves to the darkness of the river, and from the darkness of the ignorance, poverty and unawareness to the shades of savagery and absence of civilization. It is therefore Marlow declares Congo as the dark place of the earth. (p. 67) Hence, the novel reveals how pathetic and miserable life the people of Congo had been leading at the era when the enlightened European despots invaded the region.
The work also reveals the conspiracies, intrigues, favoritism, nepotism and corruption prevailing in the administration during the 18th and nineteenth centuries. The conflict between the manager and Kurtz, and the manager’s ill attitude and disliking for Kurtz reflects the internal clashes experienced by the governmental institutions and their high officials. The author, through the mouth of the protagonist, expresses the grief the lovers undergo during the separation from lovers, as the Kurtz’s beloved met with the long term separation and finally his death, which forced her to remain in mourning even after one year of Kurtz’s death. Hence, black color goes hand in hand with the development of the story throughout the novel, raises its head once again at the end of the novel.
Conrad has also exposed that the Europeans, those days as they still are, had been superior to their African and Asian counterparts in all fields, including education, forces, ammunition, wealth, trade, technology, industrialization and equipments; it is therefore they ruled over large populations for centuries with the help of only few hundred army personnel. The trafficking of heavy ammunition, construction of railway track, movements of steamboats, educated administrators and well trained army personnel were more than sufficient for terrifying the native population.
Consequently, the Belgians were successful in enslaving the healthy men of Congo in order to engage them for forced labor by keeping them in the chains. The novel reveals that although the native people had been leading a life of misery and slavery, yet sometimes such incidents used to take place that invited the utter wrath of the local people. It is therefore the local people killed the previous sea-captain Fresleven in cold blood to take revenge of murdering the chief of their village. The novel resembles with George Orwell’s famous story “Shooting an Elephant”, where the white British administrators had to undergo the hatred of the local people because of their cruel behavior towards them. Hence, the Heart of Darkness successfully portrays the relationship between the savage subjugated African population and their white Imperialist masters in a vivid and powerful manner. The diction, style and portrayal of events certainly make the novel a classic piece of literature.
Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness” 1899