When Conrad wrote the novel (during the latter part of the 19th century) the British were at the helm of their imperial power having colonies around the world, including India, Malaya, Hong Kong and much of Africa and also dominated over the Suez Canal, the East Coast of Africa, and the dominate to the source of the Nile. Achebe contends that Heart of Darkness sees Africa:
"as setting and backdrop which eliminates the African as human factor. Africa as metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril. Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind" (Achebe,1988, P. 12)
Achebe, in that essay, however, admits that both Marlow and Conrad are liberals of the "English liberal tradition which required all Englishmen of decency to be deeply shocked by atrocities in Bulgaria or the Congo of King Leopold of the Belgians or whatever" (P. 10). He also admits that Conrad is anxious not so much with Africa as with the decline of the Europeans mind caused by solitude and sickness. They will point out to you that Conrad is, if anything, less charitable to the Europeans in the story than he is to the natives, that the point of the story is to ridicule Europe's civilizing mission in Africa. (Achebe, P. 12)
Achebe asserts that the disdainful attitude towards Africa, as reflected in Heart of Darkness is not Conrad's but that of his imaginary narrator, Marlow's, and Conrad might as well used him to mock and censure European attitude. To Achebe, Conrad appears to take much pains to guard himself and the moral universe of his history, which has close similarity with Marlow (Conrad spent a significant 20 years of his life working as a sailor and later became the captain of a steamship in the Belgian Congo in 1890, Conrad's time in Africa caused him to fall sick, inflicting on his health). That, according to Achebe could bet the reason the Heart of Darkness has a narrator behind a narrator, the main narrator is Marlow sieved by a second, vague person. "But if Conrad's intention is to draw a cordon sanitaire between himself and the moral and psychological malaise of his narrator" his care appears to Achebe as a total waste as he ignored" to hint at a reference by which he can "judge the actions and opinions of his characters" (Achebe, 1988). Marlow to Achebe appears to be having "Conrad's complete confidence -- a feeling reinforced by the close similarities" between them (Achebe, 1988, pp. 251).
In the novel, "Darkness", eventually portrays the consequences of the British capitalistic occupation of Africa -- Marlow's journey becoming a story of man's imperfection, illusions, and perplexity due to his inability to see unmistakably the human condition in capitalism, and getting easy with murder, and slavery; and ignoring all other dreams and pursuits of y humanity, spiritually. Marlow represents Conrad's ideas of English imperialism - an ambition to benefit from such an oppressive mechanism unknowingly, from a muddled belief systems in England and Africa to an understanding of reality -at once wobbly and resolute The question to him was what was more real -- England or Africa This confusion forced him to a journey from his imperialism and capitalism to