Heart of Darkness has many characteristics that are indicative of imperialism,especially those surrounding Kurtz and the methodology by which he compares himself to European values.Kurtz recognized that there were many opportunities to exploit the natives,such as conning them out of precious ivory,much like other Europeans were doing at the time. Conrad continuously uses metaphors and symbolism as a method of reinforcing the differences between African native beliefs and those of the more exploitive British Empire, such as comparing the Thames to the Congo as if representing the struggles between blacks and whites at the time. The Company in the book considers Kurtz to be unstable and bordering on mental illness, however there are conflicting messages in this novel associated with Kurtz in relation to imperialism. There seems to have been a social shift occurring during this time period where even whites were emerging from long-standing beliefs about the value and integrity of the African people. This is apparent in how the Company and management continue to change Kurtz’ rather cruel and exploitive ways in relation to his treatment and attitude of the African native people. Even though there is some success in these efforts through management and Marlow, Kurtz still holds onto the notion that European values are superior. The paradox, in this case, is Kurtz’ supposed relationship with a woman of color that seems to defy his publicized worldview that European imperialism is superior in
virtually every way.