Imagery in Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness was a novella written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. This novella mainly talks about Marlow an introspective sailor, and his journey up to the Congo River to meet Kurts known as an idealistic man of great abilities which he represents the European as a whole who in the pretext says that they come to Africa just too civilized and educate the African people but the reality is far beyond the truth. This book shows the extreme essence of savagery, cruelty, and brutality towards the native people of Africa by Europeans. It also depicts the overwhelming sense of evil and corruption encountered by natives of central Africa. One of the main ideas discussed in the novel is imperialism which means unequal human and territorial relationships, usually in the form of an empire, based on ideas of superiority and practices of dominance, and involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another. Thus, the imperialistic ideals enshrined in the heart of darkness are portrayed through economic exploitation, civilization, and political repression.

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Firstly, the imperialistic ideals shown in the heart of darkness are through economic exploitation which was the main motive of colonizers. The novel depicts the western imperialism by the Belgian company. They came to Congo to exploit and grip its resources by brutalizing and making the natives their slaves. Joseph Conrad has created the background where ivory plays a fundamental role in Congo which is the very reason European target Africa to gain those resources. Europe increased the collection of ivory through slave labor and tortured them just to the extent of their territories. Most European considered Africa as the ideal place to dominate politically and culturally. In the novel, the Belgian company represents the European nation as a whole where they extracted the wealth from African and export it to their own country using the native’s people to gain their own benefits. Their actual intention was clear to all the readers that they didn’t come to Africa to educate but to extract the resources (ivory). Europe not only exploits the resources but also the people of Africa. They were brutally used as slaves and treated like the novel Kurtz is the European who come to Congo and become the leader and he made natives so miserable and he killed people who revolt against him. Thus, the imperialistic ideal is shown through economic exploitation in this novella.

Secondly, imperialistic ideals are portrayed through civilization. The white men had always treated the black men as uncivilized. So under the rhetorical ideas of civilization, black people were always treated inferior and looked down on by the white men, thus they deceived black people for their lust for wealth and power. The inhabitants still led primitive and uncivilized life because they were neither access to modern knowledge nor too sophisticated a civilization. In this context, the title itself depicts Africa as a separate and uncivilized world. Conrad’s representation of darkness means lack of purity and knowledge which symbolize backwardness, ignorance, and wildness. Europe brought innumerable changes in the region of natives in the field of technology, science, education, and consciousness but it was for their own benefits. Natives were not given any opportunities to experience ideas rather they were badly humiliated by European through the idea of civilization and education. Black people were governed by the myths and ideologies of white men. Natives saw white men as superior beings who bully and humiliate them. White men civilized the natives through the process of a “civilizing mission” that was to enhance their own power and wealth. They dominated the culture, education, ideology, and political system of Africa. White men colonized through the idea of civilizing the uncivilized. Thus, imperialistic ideals are portrayed through civilization.

Thirdly, the imperialistic ideals shown in the novel are political repression. Natives were politically repressed and suppressed. “A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved like ants. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were likes knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck and all were connected with a chain whose bight swung between them, rhythmically clinging” (The darkness of imperialism in heart of darkness n.d). The natives were mostly naked and were moving like ants which symbolized the stone heart of Europeans who suppressed black people without having sympathy as a human. They were chain to one another and whoever goes against the order of white people were killed mercilessly and their head hung on the pole which is the reminder against to the one who felt unfair towards European. Black people were suffering from starvation and excessive labor work in their own homeland as European dominants their life as well as their country. In the novel, Kurtz was an active collector of ivory which symbolized the dominant nature of Europeans who has the only authority against natural wealth and power. Natives don’t have the power to hold their own wealth as they were politically and culturally suppressed by the white men. Thus, the imperialistic ideals are shown through political repression.

To conclude, Conrad’s heart of darkness emphasized imperialistic ideals such as economic exploitation, civilization, and political repression. Black people were under the shadow of white men where everything is under the control of white men. Their wealth and men were brutally exploited by the white people who actually came to civilized the uncivilized one but it was just they're excused to the world. It is just to gain their own benefit they deceived the black people and they were treated inhumanly. Black people were suffered from starvation and excessive labor work in their own homeland as the nation was being robbed by the white people. They were so much inferior as they were killed if they raised their voice against white men. The superiority of white men is so prominent that they dominants half of the world. 

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