Colonialism and Imperialism - A Post-colonial Study of Heart of Darkness

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A Post-colonial Study of Heart of Darkness

In this paper, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness will be examined by using a recent movement, Post-colonial Study that mainly focuses on the relationship between the Self and the Other, always intertwined together in considering one’ identity. The Other is commonly identified with the margin, which has been oppressed or ignored by Eurocentric, male-dominated history. Conrad is also conscious of the Other's interrelated status with the Self, but his main concern is the Self, not the Other, even though he deals with the natives. As Edward W. Said indicates in his Orientalism, the Orient (or the Other) has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea,
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Namely, Marlow focuses on an "idea"--an ideal slogan--which is employed to impose "higher" civilization on uncivilized world: "What redeems it is the idea only . . . not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice" (7). Seeing the idea as a false concept fabricated by ideological colonialism, Said notes: the idea is only a man's desire for protection from the impinging confusions of the world. Immediately after the intellectual organization of the world, according to the idea, there comes the expedient of devotion to the idea,which in turn breeds conquest according to the idea.2 Consequently, the "idea" reflects Eurocentric self-image. As soon as this Eurocenric image is constructed, Westerners begin to think that the world should be reorganized according to the image. From the beginning of the novel, imperialism is thus justified even as a sacred mission to deliver light to the darkness of uncivilized society by Marlow’s colonial discourse, which does not consider the marginal, silenced voices of the natives, or the Other in the text.

Marlow attempts to compare his journey into the Congo to one that penetrates a primitive world. Since Europeans like Conrad possess a progressive, Eurocentric vision of world history, the Congo is described as the
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