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Colonialism and Imperialism – European Invasion Depicted in Heart of Darkness

The European Invasion in Heart of Darkness

The viewpoint of the European invasion of Africa, as seen through the eyes of Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, takes a dramatic turn. At first, Marlow sees through the European viewpoint, where the invasion is a heroic attempt to tame a mysterious culture, while reaping the rewards of the ivory trade. The descriptions of the natives are inhuman, monstrous and fearful. The shift in perception occurs as Marlow begins to see through the eyes of the natives. The result is compassion for an ancient civilization that is very much human in there fear of being conquered.

Part of Marlow’s European viewpoint stems from people he respects. From his ” excellent aunt’s” Christian viewpoint, there is a duty in ” weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways”(Longman, P.2199). Marlow becomes influenced by the members in the partnership mostly concerned with obtaining ivory ” I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings”(2202). The European viewed conquering the ignorant and using their ivory for wealth as heroic. The description of he manger’s office walls contained “a collection of spears, assegais, shields, knives was hung up as trophies”(2208). In addition, the mission of Kurtz becomes ” a very important one, in the true ivory-country, the very bottom there” (2204). Here the European viewpoint of invading Africa is heroic verses horrific.

Through the description of hoe Marlow first view the natives; there is an expression of fear felt toward the uncivilized race not viewed as human. After the death of Marlow’s African helmsman, Marlow question his sorrow for the loss for a ” savage who was no more than a grain of sand in a black Sahara”(2227). In addition, when approaching Kurtz, Marlow’s fearful description of an approaching native is ” Some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt! It looked fiend-like enough” (2237). The fear of the unfamiliar culture unfolds with ” mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons”(2204). In this viewpoint, fear is the European excuse for the invasion.

The shift in Marlow’s perception towards the natives develops as compassion for the fear Europeans have inflicted occurs. Marlow sees though the eyes of the natives with ” The glimpse of the steamboat had for some reason filled those savages with unrestrained grief” (2221). Unfolding is the discovery that the savages are human after all.

Vague Descriptions in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Vague Descriptions in Heart of Darkness

A dark, unfamiliar setting and a suspenseful plot give Heart of Darkness the characteristics of a good novel, but what really stands out is Conrad’s writing. The story is full of vague imagery and descriptions that the reader must contemplate in order to fully understand. Writing so vividly was an impressive feat for Conrad, who was actually not a native English speaker. (Dintenfass) His style includes a great deal of subtlety and complexity. Although it may seem as if Conrad was trying to confuse the reader, his actual goal was to create a work of art, rather that just a novel.

Several critics have put down Conrad’s work because his writing is so vague; they claim that it lacks order and clarity. Conrad occasionally wrote back to these critics and explained why he chose to construct his stories in such a vague manner. Says Professor Mark Dintenfass, commenting on Conrad’s own opinion about his writing: “For Conrad then, as for most modern artists, the world as we experience it is not the sort of place that can be reduced to a se…

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