Heart of Destruction

Marlow, at the beginning of his narrative, states, “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion . . . is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea, . . . —something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to . . . ( 39)” [italics added] What is the “sentimental pretence” that Marlow alludes to dismissively? What is the “idea” that can redeem “the conquest,” according to Marlow?

Can anything ultimately “redeem” conquest and colonialism? Give reasons for your answer based on Heart of Darkness? “Heart of Destruction” Within every human there exists a degree of darkness that is concealed unless presented with the correct environment to surface. Darkness being defined as potential for savagery within a human. If not checked by reason, this vile darkness could emerge to ultimately destroy the person or present them with an opportunity to achieve personal growth and self-knowledge.

In the Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad explores colonization as a primary example of the weakness one possesses in the face of greed. Through different transformations that occur within characters, Conrad demonstrates the power of corruption of an individual rooted in the foundations of European Colonialism. Although there was a hint of good behind the idea of colonization, given the opportunity to explore this idea, the colonizers fell into a trap of buried instincts to find themselves endowed in darkness they first sought to eliminate.

Through his main character, Marlow, Conrad uses setting, theme of darkness and diction to display colonization as a destructive force. At the time this novella was written, the British Empire was at it’s peak, where Britain controlled colonies all over the planet. Due to the increasing population in Europe and a lack of resources, the reasons for colonization were primary economic. (Bedford 97) Yet, in order to seem more humane, the European leaders hid their real intentions and promoted idea of colonization as to “bring civilization and Christianity to unenlightened regions of the world. ” (Bedford 99).

Therefore, the initial narrator in Heart of Darkness praises the British explorers as “knight-errants” of the sea, promoting these men as the glory of Great Britain because of their ability to contribute to the ‘civilization’ and ‘enlightenment’ of the rest of the world. However, Marlow sets himself apart by using an ironic tone, through which he reminds the reader of the past; when Britain was not the heart of civilization, but “one of the dark places of the earth” (Conrad 38).

In this statement Conrad reminds the reader that Britain was once colonized by the Romans, which in turn implies that England was once as ‘primitive’ as Africa. Such notion is enforced by the description of the “interminable waterways” (Conrad 35) of the Congo and the Thames River, exhibiting that each river flows into one another. Conrad uses Congo as the setting to represent the absence of restraint and order that could exemplify a lack of civility, which in turn provides the opportunity for the emergence of darkness and greed.

It is important to note that Marlow’s tale begins and ends in literal darkness that operates in several ways throughout the novella. Darkness itself symbolizes the unknown, which is often more alarming then the state itself. The shrill cry that is heard by the men aboard the steam boat allowed Marlow’s “hair to stir under [his] cap” which was caused by “the sheer unexpectedness of it” (Conrad 65). This fear arises not from knowing that some potential threat is near, but from the inability to see it. Moreover, darkness essentially conceals acts of savagery that are going on in the Congo.

For example, the placement of human heads on poles could only be concealed in Congo, because it is a region far from the “light” of civilized. On the other hand, darkness can be very compelling despite the fear it induces. For the company man, the material wealth in forms of ivory serves as an incentive, while Marlow is initially seeking to undertake a great adventure. However, the character that experiences the darkness the most is Kurtz, a “man reputed of great abilities” (Conrad ). He has been completely transformed by his experience in Congo, exposing the potential for savagery that lies within every human.

Overall, darkness could be seen as the metaphor for ignorance towards true purpose of colonization that Conrad is trying to expose. From Marlow’s narrations it seems that he is concerned with what imperialism does to the Europeans then the colonized people. Through his diction, he is extremely critical of imperialism, suggesting that Europeans are misguided in their mission to ‘civilize and enlighten’ and are temped into violent behavior. Therefore, the story concerns with not the redeeming idea behind imperialism, but with nations who set themselves up as a god for others to “bow down before and offer a sacrifice to” (Conrad 39).

Competing powers invent their own theories of cultural or civilization course in order to justify their actions abroad. These “redeeming” ideas demonstrate the real purpose of power conquest and unrestrained self-pride. Conrad, through Marlow, challenges such view through the use of words and phrases that exhibit colonization as “robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale” (Conrad ). Further, he sees such conquests as taking land and materials away from those people who “have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses, its not a pretty thing when you look into it too much” (Conrad 39).

Through this statement Marlow sees firsthand the cold truth of colonization: physically wasted, tortured workers operating for the profit, recognition and glory of another nation. It is like an experiment in which everyone gets to see the end result, and not the ugly process. The more controlled the structure of the tribe becomes, the less humanity exists in those controlling it. CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH etttccc Colonization may help to maintain the surface luster of the home country, but there are no benefits for those being colonized, only hardship, suffering and death.

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