Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, he grapples with the idea of criticizing the attempts and attitudes of “civilizing”. According to Marlow, conqueror’s strength comes from the conquered’s weakness in by which he defines conquest and civilization while Conrad critiques it. Throughout Marlow’s narration of conquest+civilization, Conrad critiques the very nature of colonial conquest.

To begin with, the lack of strength of the “savages” just makes the conquerors more elegible to take over a society. For one thing, Marlow asserts that being more powerful than others is what makes themselves “civilized”.

For example, on page 4 it states, “..conquest of earth, which mostly means taking it away from those who have a different complexion…something you can set up, and bow down before…” This means that in reality, the lower class is being tricked into believing they will be helped. It is the idea that you think you are helping others but it is exactly vise versa.

So it shows how weak others can be. Also, Marlow also describes how the white men saw the natives’ weakness and they made them slaves of their company while forcing them to do all hard labor. They were referred as “savages” as well. As an illustration, on page 12-13 it says, “Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path.

They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps…each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bright swung between them, rhythmically clinking… They were called criminals.

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.deathlike indifference of unhappy savages.” In other words, this shows how powerful you can be in the way that you can take over someone else’s life just like that. It comes up to the point where that person can become your own worker or slave. By the same token, all of the conquering that is going on while in Africa, made some changes in the way Marlow narrates conquest. For instance, on page 32 he says, “The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there– there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.” This means that Conrad is allowing colonialism to go beyond its limits of conquering which transfer to the meaning of “civilized” people and “uncivilized” people.

In addition, Marlow also narrates who are the “uncivilized”. Particularly, not being civilized also makes you look weaker and with less power. Moreover, on page 14 the narrator penetrates, “They were dying slowly-it was very clear. They were not enemies…nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation…” This action proves that the uncivilized are weaker because of the lack wealth in society. The supposedly “civilized” tend to be the upper class who basically have every of their needs. In the same way, since the white people are considered the good, they are being worshipped for the greastest and the most civilized. For example, on page 45 it speculates that ” He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development…in the nature of supernatural beings..approach them with the might as of diety…” For this reason, one claims to be in a “civilized” society while the other cultures are in a lesser society and they are later being classified as inhuman. Likewise, Marlow mentions how Kurtz’s engagement did not occur because his lack of wealth. For example, on page 70 Marlow indicates, “I had heard that her engagement with Kurtz had been disapproved by her people. He wasn’t rich enough or something…his impatience of comparative poverty that drove him out of there.” Namely, Conrad creates this instant change in class on order to show how in reality, you should consider yourself no better than others. Instead of considering yourself “civilized”, know you are just as uncivilized as the “civilized”.

Furthermore, Conrad critiques the nature of colonialism. For the most part, Kurtz seems to be abusing his powers in the Inner Station. As an illustration, on page 51 Conrad presents, “He could be very terrible..I don’t mind telling you, he wanted to shoot me, too, one day-but I don’t judge him…I had a small lot of ivory…he wanted it..He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country…nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased.” To specify, Conrad uses Kurtz’ over-power in order to prove the failing to supposedly be “civilized”. He is making fun on how in reality, if you are “civilized”, you appear to be the uncivilized one. Comparatively, Kurtz’s fiancee plays a role in having power as well and being part of the colonialism. For example, on page 69 it’s stated, “But when you think that no one knew him so well as I! I had all his noble confidence.

I knew him best.” In this case, the fiancee is used as a symbol to specify the idea of colonial conquest. Conrad used her as an example to be the one to show wealth and power to makes others weak. Also, when Flesleven gets punished for what done to the chief of the village, the village seems to be deserted and empty. For instance, on page 7 it demonstrates, “They were all there. The supernatural being had not been touched after he fell. And the village was deserted..the people had vanished…” In other words, Conrad finds it critical to portray the way the “civilized” takes action. It is a reminder to make note of who you choose to be in full power and position of your society.

In conclusion, Conrad is making big arguments basing on Marlow’s narration of civilization and conquest. Basically, Conrad is using judgement to say that the civilizor’s civilizedness comes from the civilizees’ lack of “civilization” and that conquest is using symbols to define what is more powerful and what is weaker.

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Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. (2019, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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