Heart Of Darkness Racism Thesis

This kind of dehumanization is harder to identify than colonial violence or open racism.While Heart of Darkness offers a powerful condemnation of the hypocritical operations of imperialism, it also presents a set of issues surrounding race that is ultimately troubling.

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However, for Marlow as much as for Kurtz or for the Company, Africans in this book are mostly objects: Marlow refers to his helmsman as a piece of machinery, and Kurtz’s African mistress is at best a piece of statuary.

It can be argued that Heart of Darkness participates in an oppression of nonwhites that is much more sinister and much harder to remedy than the open abuses of Kurtz or the Company’s men.

Madness is closely linked to imperialism in this book.

Africa is responsible for mental disintegration as well as physical illness. First, it serves as an ironic device to engage the reader’s sympathies. However, as Marlow, and the reader, begin to form a more complete picture of Kurtz, it becomes apparent that his madness is only relative, that in the context of the Company insanity is difficult to define.

The first such image Marlow witnesses off the West African coast, where a French warship fires pointlessly at an invisible enemy.

Heart Of Darkness Racism Thesis

Another image appears later, at the Central Station, when Marlow watches as frantic Europeans pointlessly attempt to extinguish a burning grass hut.European imperial missions sought to civilize “savage” peoples and hence appeared pure in their intentions, but all too often they inflicted terrible violence instead.The accountant Marlow meets at the Company Station provides another important example of contradiction.The men who work for the Company describe what they do as “trade,” and their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of “civilization.” Kurtz, on the other hand, is open about the fact that he does not trade but rather takes ivory by force, and he describes his own treatment of the natives with the words “suppression” and “extermination”: he does not hide the fact that he rules through violence and intimidation.His perverse honesty leads to his downfall, as his success threatens to expose the evil practices behind European activity in Africa.Although social mores and explanatory justifications are shown throughout Heart of Darkness to be utterly false and even leading to evil, they are nevertheless necessary for both group harmony and individual security.Madness, in Heart of Darkness, is the result of being removed from one’s social context and allowed to be the sole arbiter of one’s own actions.Madness is thus linked not only to absolute power and a kind of moral genius but to man’s fundamental fallibility: Kurtz has no authority to whom he answers but himself, and this is more than any one man can bear.This novella is, above all, an exploration of hypocrisy, ambiguity, and moral confusion.At the Outer Station, he watches native laborers blast away at a hillside with no particular goal in mind.The absurd involves both insignificant silliness and life-or-death issues, often simultaneously.


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