Colonialism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Imperialism Exposed in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' is a novel about European imperialism and its far-reaching effects. Conrad relates his personal opinions through the protagonist, Marlow, who learns a great deal about imperialism while on a journey to the African Congo. Although 'Heart of Darkness' seems to be an anti-imperialistic work, this is not entirely true. Conrad condemns the overly idealistic nature of imperialism, but does not attack Britain's competent employment of it.

"Heart of Darkness" opens with a discussion between Marlow and his friends concerning the idealistic imperialism of conquerors, especially English, who were "bearers of a spark from the sacred fire"-the
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When Marlow first receives his appointment with the company, he thinks that the Belgians are ?full of it,? full of the excitement of "running an over-sea empire" strictly for the profit from trade (1433). Our current use of the phrase "full of it" could also be applied, in that Marlow does not condone the method in which the Belgians approach imperialism. His judgment of the Belgians may be partly due to the fact that most of his confidence in imperialism lies within the red part of the map, England, where the "real work is being done." He is even more disappointed in the Belgians' approach to trade when he sees the overturned truck, decaying machinery, natives chained together and dying in the shade (1437). The natives of the Congo cannot even comprehend what is happening to them: "the outraged law had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea." This unexplainable force came into their land, taking ivory in return for cheap manufactured goods such as cotton, beads, and brass wire. As Marlow says, the only way they could profit from these inexpensive goods would be to "swallow the wire itself, or make loops out of it to snare fish with" (1457). Not only are the methods of the Belgians unfair, but they are also inefficient. This is seen in the "objectless"
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