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Role of Women in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Women do not play an important part in Heart of Darkness. This is

not too surprising as the text was first published for a magazine in 1898.

Throughout Marlow’s voyage he encounters few women and he does not consider

any of them to be his equal. His reference to women places them in their

own little world where they should remain. There are a number of reasons as

to why Marlow may have this understanding of the female being. These

reasons include, but are not limited to, the lack of females in his life,

the fact that he is primarily surrounded by men, and the type of women he

comes in contact with in his line of work.

First and foremost, we will note that Marlow is a seaman. He is a

man who has dedicated his life to the ways of the water. As the narrator

mentions when speaking of Marlow, “he was the only man of us who still

‘followed the sea'” (Conrad, 9). He has been picking up and traveling the

world by way of a boat for most of his adult life. The simple fact that he

is able to do this without regret is a hint into Marlow’s personal life. He

cannot be a family man, because it would be too hard for him to be away from

family members for such great lengths of time. He may have a mother or a

sister somewhere, but it is obvious that, for Marlow, there is no strong

bond with any female family member. Even his aunt who so willingly helps

him find work is not spoken of lovingly. If Marlow were to have a wife, one

would assume that, it would be hard, if not impossible, for him to maintain

a faithful marital relationship to her while leading such a Nomadic

lifestyle. This is presumably why he is not emotionally attached to a wife

or serious girlfriend.

It is also safe to say that Marlow does not have any platonic girl

associates, because of the statement made about them in their own world. He

makes it quite clear that women and men are on two totally different levels.

In the time that the story was written, it would have been crazy to think of

a woman and a man having a mutual friendship that had no loving or sexual


Prejudice and Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Imagine floating up the dark waters of the Congo River in the Heart of Africa. The calmness of the water and the dense fog make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you wonder if the steamboats crew will eat you as you sleep. These things occur in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Although the book is undeniably racist, was the author, Joseph Conrad, racist? Conrad was racist because he uses racial slurs, the slavery and unfair treatment of the native Africans in his book.

The use of racist language is very prevalent in Heart of Darkness. Conrad, through Marlow, the main character, uses the word nigger when talking about native Africans on many occasions. “The fool-nigger had dropped everything to throw the shutter open and let off that Martini-Henry” (Conrad 46). The use of the word nigger so loosely by Marlow and other people in the book was an accepted thing during the time the book took place. Nigger has always been a racist word and because Conrad writes with this word, he is racist. Conrad’s racist writing makes the native people look ignorant.

“I pulled the string of the whistle, and I did this because I saw the pilgrims on the deck getting out their rifles with an air of anticipating a jolly lark. At the sudden screech there was a movement of abject terror through that wedged mass of bodies.” (Conrad 66)

In this particular portion of the book Conrad blew the steam whistle to scare away the foolish natives. Conrad, in his writing, displays an attitude that the native people were niggers and were not smart people. In writing about this, he is uneducated about cultural differences. He does not know and understand the African people so he calls them niggers…

… middle of paper …

… teach them, as it were.” (Conrad 42)

To say the natives had no understanding of time is dehumanizing. Even the most primitive cultures had some sense of time. Weather it simply knowing that when the sun goes down and then comes up, a new day starts. Conrad displayed the natives as things that spoke a primitive language and were not intelligent. Writing about this is extremely racist and offensive.

As you push further up river, things emerge from the dense jungle only feet from your boat. The “fool-nigger” driving the boat gets scared and starts shooting. The rest of the ships crew shoots aimlessly into the bush. Joseph Conrad was a racist person. He makes the native African people look like brainless things that should be used as pawns of the European society.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. W.W. Norton and Company: New York. 1988.

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