The Darkness of Colonialism and Imperialism in Heart of Darkness

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The Light and Dark of Colonialism in Heart of Darkness

In the opening of his novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad, through Marlow, establishes his thoughts on colonialism. He says that conquerors only use brute force, "nothing to boast of" because it arises, by accident, from another's weakness. Marlow compares his subsequent tale of colonialism with that of the Roman colonization of Northern Europe and the fascination associated with such an endeavor. However, Marlow challenges this viewpoint by painting a heinous picture of the horrors of colonialist ventures as we delve deeper into the recesses of the novel. Here we find that Marlow sees colonization as "robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at
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Like Marlow, Kurtz began his employment with the ivory company with noble intentions: he wants to create a better way of life for the natives. However, because of extreme hardships placed upon him by the manager, Kurtz becomes the "dark" half of the soul: he symbolizes what Marlow may have become if placed in Kurtz' position.

As the treacherous villain of the tale the manager, signifies total darkness and blackness of the soul, as he is responsible for the severely unbalanced priorities of the company through the extreme importance given to the obtaining of ivory and the deficiency of importance given to human lives.

Conrad also implements minor characters to further the unexpected distinction between dark and light, black and white. The white pilgrims are portrayed as materialistic, ivory-hungry opportunists with "black" souls; their behavior is violent and savage. Contrariwise, the black natives are civil, spiritual, and have "white" souls. In the beginning of the novel, Conrad creates the fellow seamen who accompany Marlow on his present journey and listen to his tale of the Congo to establish the contrast between the materialistic and the spiritual. The fellow sailors do not understand Marlow's tale and chastise him throughout, showing their reluctance and inability to
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