Analysis of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

Marlow tells this story to tell of his journey into interior Africa while he was working for a Belgian Ivory trading firm. Along his journey he experiences and at some point is a witness to brutality and hate between the colonialists and the African natives. The Company is caught up in a struggle for power with the truth about Kurtz, a mysterious agent working within the company, who has turned into a god to the Africans. Kurtz become a prisoner of power over the African people. However, when Marlow takes Kurtz away from the African people he develops different withdrawal conditions from his power obsession which leads to his succumbing to illness, madness and death in the end.

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Marlow offers support to Kurt instead of the company despite it being morally dubious as well as this move being bad career wise. In telling his story Marlow desires to show other men the darkness he has uncovered pertaining to the human heart was well as the other capabilities which can arise from such darkness being propagated. He tells them the story so that they can be aware of the surface-truths they are shown and the bigger underlying lies which are told to unsuspecting people.

Marlow in taking over the company and going against his morals was as a result of him wanting to keep Kurtz’s image to his wife since she had an image of him which was dissimilar to how he himself was. She is in praise and awe of Kurtz with her making assumptions that he was a noble being therefore this leads to Marlow taking up the company to carry on the work that was ongoing since she could not tell her his last words and how his last days were spent. This continued lying prolonged her belief that Kurtz was a great man. This is evident within the society where when missionaries arrived they seem to have clear harmless incentive however it led to them hurting the same people they profess they came to save. This continued lie is a revelation of how Europeans functioned in Africa. His wife also idolizes him similar to how the native Africans idolized him (Murphy, 2014).

Kurtz in his death bed before his death says “The Horror! The Horror!” which come off as a self-realization check since he finally faces the horrible deeds he has been propagating as well as how human nature has been deprived of its innocence. Both men however are similar to each other with both being arrogant and making attempts to establish themselves as figures of unparalleled power within the native African society. Their power however is achievable through them making use of the powerful connections which they have to help them rise to power. They also have some obsessions with Marlow’s being finding Kurtz and Africa while Kurtz does not plan to stop until he can amass as much wealth as possible (Jappe, 2014).

The themes in the work arise from the childhood under which Conrad grew in where he went through harsh conditions and harsh backgrounds such as his father being exiled to Siberia after suspicions rose that he was planning a plot against the Russian government. Conrad is criticized by Achebe continually due to his continued racist and anti-African sentiments throughout his book. Conrad for instance fails in acknowledging that Africans and Europeans have similarities with him seeming to imply that only Europe was civilized and Africa was not. This also seen through colonization of Africa sets it to be Europe’s antithesis despite the existing kinship between the two. His belittlement of Africa and its people is seen through his views narrated pertaining to African settings in the book.

Marlow and Kurtz all desired to find adventure in Africa however the goals of their travels were different. Kurtz desired to travel with claims that he wanted to improve and humanize Africa however when he got power while working among the Africans his initial philanthropic ideas were lost as he struggled to set himself as a god to the natives. He makes use of brute force in his operations however he lies to the company that he is carrying out good intentions. Kurtz differs from the company in that he does not try to protect his image while carrying out his takes unlike the company which tries to hide behind a veil of doing well to the people.

Marlow is shocked by the revelations which he eventually uncovers about the Europeans. Marlow is a curios and inquisitive character who tries to dig deeper into remarks made so that he can gain deeper understanding. He is also swallowed in the lie of civilization while the company was setting up so that they could achieve their selfish desired. With time, his surroundings slowly unravel and he is able to see clearly what is hidden behind the façade. For example, the amount of disregard for life he sees at the headquarters of the company shocks him beyond belief as well as there being too much waste dumped at the back. This acts as a reality check where it becomes for him to be able to reintegrate himself with the society back at Europe (Simmons, 2014).

Therefore, from the novel there are many insights which bring out some of the issues that are continually propagated within society such as the lies which are usually propagated by different individuals and companies with them being coated with promise to make changes and truth. Also there are evidences of racism against Africans with considerations of how they were mistreated by the Europeans who claimed that their intent was to help the African natives civilize. The predominant theme is how lies are usually propagated in different ways.

 

References

Jappe, A. (2014). Kurz, a journey into capitalism’s heart of darkness. Historical Materialism, 22(3-4), 395-407.

Murphy, S. A. J. (2014). The Monster is You: An Analysis of Spec Ops: The Line as an Adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Master’s thesis).

Simmons, A. H. (2014). Reading Heart of Darkness. The New Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, 15.