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Essay on Heart of Darkness as Social Protest

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Heart of Darkness as Social Protest



Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, is an intriguing and extremely

disturbing portrayal of man's surrender to his carnal nature when all

external trappings of "civilization" are removed. This novel excellently

portrays the shameful ways in which the Europeans exploited the Africans:

physically, socially, economically, and spiritually.



Throughout the nineteenth century, Europeans treated their African

counterparts savagely. They were beaten, driven from their homes, and

enslaved. Heart of Darkness is no exception. In the first section of the

novel, Marlow is disgusted by the condition of the Africans at the
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Europeans were also extremely distrustful of the natives. They

were often accused of crimes because of the color of their skin. At the

beginning of the novel, a French ship is firing blindly into the woods

because "[apparently] the French had one of their wars going on

thereabouts." Later in the novel, at the Central Station, a native is

accused of causing the fire that engulfed the European's storage shed. He

is beaten savagely; later he ran away from the station.



The Europeans, aside from physically exploiting the Africans, also

exploited them economically. When the Europeans first came to Africa, they

found a civilization that was extremely well-developed, albeit in a

different way than traditional Western civilization. They discovered a

continent that was rich in many things, particularly gold, silver, and

ivory. Far from the external checks of civilization and motivated by their

greed, they decided to exploit the riches they had "discovered." The

Africans provided a ready labor force. So, the Europeans pressed them into

labor by various means, ranging from brute force to manipulation of their

religious beliefs. For example, at the beginning of the novel, Marlow

encounters a chain gang that is forced to "[balance] small baskets full of

earth
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