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How The Heart of Darkness Reflects the Paradoxes of Imperialism in the 19th Century - Essay Example

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The researcher is determined to discuss how The Heart of Darkness reflects the paradoxes of imperialism in the late 19th century. This assignment explored how Joseph Conrad viewed imperialism and commented on how the paradoxes of imperialism are recounted through the eyes of Marlowe and Kurtz. …
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How The Heart of Darkness Reflects the Paradoxes of Imperialism in the 19th Century
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How The Heart of Darkness Reflects the Paradoxes of Imperialism in the 19th Century

The paper tells that “The Heart of Darkness” is definitely one of Joseph Conrad’s better known literary works. Hailed as a classic, the novella was first published in 1899 as a three part series in Blackwood magazine, prior to its 1902 publication in book form. Concerned with the evils of colonization in general and of Africa in particular, it is a clear reflection of the politics and strife of the black man in the Belgian Congo of the 1890s. At first glance, Marlowe himself is amazed and excited by the breadth of opportunities and economic wealth that the colonization of Africa will bring, but he is appalled and disgusted by the treatment of the black man at the hands of the Europeans. He realizes that imperialism has many paradoxes and this is but one of them. It is commonly agreed that the character of Marlowe is a reflection of Conrad himself, who had gone to sea eight years earlier to serve as captain of a Congo steamer; however he fell sick and returned to Europe without sailing since his ship was under repair. Darkness to Marlowe (or Conrad) signifies death, despair, oppression and the sadder things in life. Through the novel we are introduced to darkness at three levels: the darkness of the Congolese wilderness, the darkness of the European’s ill-treatment of the natives, and the darkness that is the capacity for evil and cruelty that inherently resides in the heart of every man. Even the narrative of the story itself is set in a time frame from dusk to dawn and through the dark night, further elucidating the author’s purpose. ...
Marlowe compares the European domination and colonization of the Congolese natives to the way in which the Romans dominated and colonized the savage English many centuries ago. Conrad himself was unsure whether imperialism and colonization was a boon or a curse- at best he saw it as a double edged sword. Thus in commenting to his Polish cousin on the Boer War he applauds the effort of the black man to free themselves from the yoke of imperialism, yet he agrees that nowhere better can the fruits of democracy be enjoyed than under the British flag. Conrad regarded the British as being less harsh than the Germans or the Belgians- however he laments that revolts and uprisings against the British colonizers were increasingly occurring in different parts of the world. As Marlowe travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally to the Inner Station, he encounters scenes of cruelty, torture and near slavery. The fact that Kurtz has convinced some of the natives to worship him as a God can also be likened to the imperialists forcing the colonized to obey and follow their every command. Kurtz has put natives on the job to do his bidding while he relaxes and enjoys life as a God. Much the same can be said about imperialist policies-whatever wealth they looted and plundered they took back to their homes and households in the name of their rulers. So Kurtz can be compared to the imperialist regime and ideals- he is ruthless and conniving while powerful and unrepentant as well-quite the picture of imperialism as its worst. Even in the moment of his death, as Kurtz blurts out ‘the horror, the horror’ (Conrad, 73) we can see that Marlowe clearly regards it as Kurtz’s reflection of his life and the terrible ... Read More
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