Heart of Darkness; Values of Colonisers

988 Words Aug 23rd, 2010 4 Pages
To what extent does Conrad challenge or endorse the values of the colonisers in Heart of Darkness?

Conrad, in Heart of Darkness, challenges the values of colonialism, but at the same time he conforms to the constraints of popular culture of the time in which he wrote. In this way, the extent to which he challenges mainstream ideas is limited in regards to the angles of his criticism. Conrad’s detailed descriptions of the Europeans in Heart of Darkness implicate his discontent towards colonial practices whilst certain references to the “black fellows” who reside in Africa show his opinions are influenced by his time, and thusly impact his acquired knowledge of what is politically correct or incorrect. Conrad challenges stereotypical
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Conrad describes them as having “faces like grotesque masks” and their actions are referred to as an “incomprehensible frenzy”. Conrad paints a picture of the African people presenting a “wild passionate uproar” as the Europeans approach; he further states the scene was “ugly. Yes it was ugly enough”. Conrad then continues to contradict his statement admitting “they were man enough” and there was meaning in all the upheaval that “you could comprehend” meaning; relate to. This shows his attempt to understand the perspective of African people. Conrad here accepts the humanness of the African people but nonetheless in a manner that is seen as unconventional today. Conrad’s reference to the “edge of black mass”; the Africans, to be “prehistoric” could be interpreted as derogatory but at the time in which Conrad wrote; was normal. Conrad uses rich imagery as a key method to depict the African people; “the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening of bronze colour”, this imagery endorses colonialist views as it dehumanises the African people in a way which denotes animalistic characteristics. Conrad refers to their body’s as ‘limbs’ which are moving, through the ‘swarming’ bush which implies animalistic movements, furthermore reference to their skin is a way of noting difference between the Europeans and the Africans and hence marginalizes the African people.

Conrad, in Heart of Darkness, presents a post-colonialist view on the colonisation of
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