The Heart of Darkness


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The Heart of Darkness is one of the great literary criticisms of the process of imperial expansion in Africa. Yet Marlowe, the main character, is originally fascinated by imperialism and the possibilities that exploring Africa has to offer to a young man seeking his fortune and a name for himself.  Though the novel is a critique of European colonialism, the paradox is that the novel can not either be classified as anti-imperialist or an imperialist. Conrad aims at painting a picture that he is against exploitation of Africa, but there are instances in the novel that results to ideological contradiction stalemate. Conrad neither believes in the cultural superiority of the colonialist nor rejects colonialism out right.

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He recognizes Africans as human beings with their happiness and grief and finds that it is Europeans who are unreal in their effort to paints Africans culture as uncivilized. This view is brought to suspect when he fails to identify with Africans by terming their faces as one with ‘grotesque mask’ (Joseph 44). The ironic juxtaposition of the facts and the way Marlowe interpreted the situations makes the novel a complete paradox. Marlowe is critical of the imperialism but not when he is benefiting from the products of imperialism. He is himself an employee of an imperialistic company.

Works Cited

GOLIATH. Conrad and Ambiguity: Social Commitment and Ideology in Heart of Darkness and Nostromo. New York: Conradiana, 2005. Print

Joseph, Conrad. The Heart of Darkness.  Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia. Web. October 20, 2011. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/