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Capitalism or Moral Enlightenment in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Heart Of Darkness – Capitalism or Moral Enlightenment

Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness is about a seaman named Charlie Marlow and an experience he had as a younger man. Early in the novel it becomes apparent that there is a great deal of tension in Marlow’s mind about whether he should profit from the immoral actions of the company he works for which is involved in the ivory trade in Africa. Marlow believes that the company is ignorant of the tension between moral enlightenment and capitalism. The dehumanization of its laborers which is so early apparent to Marlow seems to be unknown to other members of the Company’s management.

In this story Marlow’s aunt represents capitalism. Her efforts to get him a job are significant because of the morally compromising nature of the work of which she seems totally ignorant. When Marlow expresses doubts about the nature of the work, she replies, “You forget, dear Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire” (12). It is clear that Marlow has mixed feelings about the whole idea. At one point, trying to justify his actions to himself, he says, “You understand it was a continental concern, that Trading Society; but I have a lot of relations on the living continent, because it’s cheap and not so nasty as it looks they say” (12). Marlow finally takes the job, however, and tells himself that the pain and unusually harsh treatment the workers are subjected to is minimal.

During the tests and the requirements that he has to undergo before entering the jungle Marlow feels that he is being treated like a freak. The doctor measures his head and asks him questions such as, “Ever any madness in your family”(15)? In this part of the story Marlow is made to feel small and unimportant. Any feelings or concerns that he has are not important to the company, and as a result, he feels alone. It is only logical that Marlow would have been second guessing his decision and feeling some kinship with the other (black) workers who are exploited, but he does not reveal any such understanding.

Upon reaching his destination in Africa, Marlow finds that things are just the same. At the point when he is denied rest after traveling twenty miles on foot he sees things are not going to change. Marlow then tells of how disease and death are running wild through-out the area, and the company does nothing in the way of prevention other than to promote those who stay alive.

evilhod The Evil of Man in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Heart Darkness essays

Heart of Darkness: The Evil of Man In the novel Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, Marlow finds himself in a position in which he is forced to accept the fact that the man he has admired and looked up to is a madman. He realizes that Kurtzs methods are not only unethical, but inhumane as well. Marlow comes to realize that Kurtz is evil, and that he himself is also evil. Therefore, Marlows disillusion makes his identification with Kurtz horrifying. As Marlow travels up the river, he is constantly preoccupied with Kurtz. Marlow says, I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time…the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home…towards his empty and desolate station(32). From the beginning of his trip, he is compared to Kurtz by all of the people that he comes into contact with, and a great deal of his thoughts are centered upon Kurtz. He wonders how he will measure up to the standards that the company sets for him, what Kurtzs personality is like, and what Kurtz would think of him. The more obsessed he becomes with Kurtz, the more he sets himself up for the horrible reality of what his new idol is truly made of. Upon reaching Kurtz’s station, Marlows disillusion begins to set in. He is greeted by an English-speaking Russian whom he takes for a man. On the surface, he is a decent, level-headed person, but after short conversation it is apparent to Marlow that he is talking with a disturbed individual. That, however, was not what bothered Marlow. Hearing of, and seeing the acts committed by Kurtz made Marlow uneasy and even afraid. It is at this point that Marlow begins his denial of any affinity he feels with Kurtz. He says in regard to the Russian, I suppose that it had not occurred to him that Mr. Kurtz was no idol of mine(59). Marlow sees all of the atrocities committed by Kurtz, and is appalled, but when he looks deep inside himself, he sees what he could easily become, and he desperately wants to suppress it. Once Kurtz is on the boat, and is heading with Marlow back to civilization, things take a strange turn. Though Marlow and Kurtz have little to talk about, they develop a distinct respect for each other. As Kurtz dies, Marlow accepts this death easily and remains loyal to his dying requests. It troubles Marlow a great deal that there is so much of himself in the things Kurtz does. There is a point where Marlow finds the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men, and he simply accepts it. This is most clearly demonstrated at the end of the story when he claims to be thinking Dont you understand I loved him-I loved him-I loved him(79). In this quote Marlow lets it all out. On the surface he hated Kurtzs actions, but he loved his power to fight the standards of society and to live as a true man. Marlow finds out that there is a savage beast in himself, and in all the men in his mind. There are a lot of problems that Marlow faces and he maintains his composure. It Kurtzs lack of composure that Marlow privately admires. In this story Marlow is forced to accept his disillusion with Kurtz, and is terrified of the identification that comes along with this acceptance. It is only then that Marlow realizes the true nature of man.

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