Colonializm in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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In short, throughout the story, the opposition between light and darkness has been a predominant symbol which is associated with a different meaning. At the opening paragraphs, light is represented by security and peacefulness while darkness is represented by insecurity and the brooding gloom. As a matter of fact, we are given the impression that light is being obscured and invaded by an undefined kind of darkness.

To make matters worse, the power of light is undermined while the power of darkness is strengthened: London, an enlightened place and the center of the world, is being invaded by darkness and gloom. Additionally, at the beginning, Conrad shows that colonialism is a civilizing mission by talking about the light which was brought to London by the Romans. Yet, he shows later that colonialism is a whited sepulcher mission.

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The Europeans claim to civilize and enlighten people while in fact their main goal is only profit. Also, Conrad overthrows the common meanings of the symbols of light and darkness. He shows that light and white things are not necessarily good, as the case with the white enlightened Europeans in the Congo: they torture and kill in the name of civilization. He also describes the Company’s headquarters as a beautiful thing in the surfaces, but ugly in the inside (whited sepulcher). In the same way, Conrad shows dark and black things are not always evil. To put it differently, that light could emerge from darkness, as the case with the native Africans who have always lived in darkness, yet they still have some humanity.

Actually, the white characters turn to be darker than the black ones. Again, Conrad hints to the fact that the civilizing mission has failed because the Europeans are morally corrupted inside: they follow their desires and greed. This is reflected by the blindfolded woman who carries a lighted torch while the background is black and dark (Kurtz’s painting).

Also, Conrad shows that the Congo is a dark and wild place where there is neither culture nor civilization. He describes the travel to the Congo as a travel to the early beginnings of the world, and also the heart of darkness. However, the story shows that evil and darkness could exist within pure and white things, and vice versa.

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Colonializm in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from