The Imperialism of Heart of Darkness

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was interesting to me because I like stories like these because it was an exploration gone wrong. The whole story centers round Marlow who was a sailor and was trying to sail up the Congo River in central Africa to meet Kurtz. Kurtz went to the jungle to originally find ivory and to help the “savages” but, failed since he ends up transforming into one of them. The story showed how the spread of imperialism and what would happen in a normal expedition.

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Although they got to where they were going, they always ran into problems with either the steam boat or the natives trying to attack them while they were traveling up the river. You can tell the foreigners were already afraid of the natives, that is why they would act the way they did when they encountered some. Marlow was also exposed to the brutality and how the trading company would treat the native people. The natives were eventually forced to work for the company which caused a major rift with the natives and the foreigners. The company would refer to the African people that they forced to work as primitive, in other words slaves. I see this is one of the multiple reasons why the natives responded aggressively to them when they would sail on the Congo River. I feel like that what they were doing to the natives were wrong because every time they would sail up the river, they would be paranoid just in case an attack would happen. People on board were jumpy and scared especially when they would hear the native drums when they would past the villages.

Throughout the story I noticed that they are some themes that help develop the whole story. I noticed that Marlow was mostly observing and eavesdropping a lot throughout the story and gained a lot of information about his surroundings and the people around him. He also heard more information about Kurtz when they were at one of the stations and he over heard the manager and a Russian trader discuss Kurtz. By Marlow being observant and listening to certain things I feel like it opened his eyes to the evils of imperialism and how the company would treat the Africans. Another theme that I noticed is that the characters were being hypocrites toward imperialism because when Marlow would work his way up the river, he saw torture and slavery tactics. The story painted a bad picture of expeditions. I noticed that some of the characters were trying to justify imperialism and how they would try and civilize the natives by trying to trade with them. The last theme I saw in the story was the evilness of the whole thing. The company was wrong for treating the natives like they were strangers. They were brutally beating them and forcing them to work. The conditions for the natives were terrible, they were treated like animals.

The setting of the story was gloomy and dark, especially when they ran into that thick patch of fog in the story that is when I noticed it. In general Africa is a dark place especially with the native traditions and everything. When they were describing the conditions of the people it was gloomy and dark. Even when they were attacked on the river Marlow described how the boy was killed and the blood got on him. The book also helped me to sympathize with the people. The dark and gloomy thing pairs perfectly with the title of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, I like to read things about imperialism and how the natives dealt with the foreigners. The story was dark, and I am not use to that genre. It really took me out of my comfort zone. Although it was a fictional story it showed I understood what all went into these types of expeditions and what the natives went through when foreigners would show up randomly. It showed the harsh reality they went through of being captured on their own soil and forced to work for people that they just met. To me I feel like the imperialist made the conditions worse for them. This was beginning of slavery before it became a booming business years later.

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The Imperialism Of Heart Of Darkness. (2021, Jul 05). Retrieved from