Kurtz As A Representation Of European Colonialism In Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is an illustrative works which explores the heart as well as the outward appearance of civilization and also reveals the darkness, complication and delusion of human nature. It is a symbolic journey into the dark places of the soul and the story of mystical breakdown. This novella also discloses about the journey of Marlow through the African jungle and his search for the European Kurtz who exploits the natives by imposing violence on them. Conrad explores the nature and reveals the horrors of colonialism through the use of symbolic characters like the shadowy and indefinable Kurtz, who represents all of Europe. Kurtz is represented as a European colonialism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness through his behavior, greediness and idealism.

Firstly, Kurtz’s behavior represents the European colonizers and the wills of what he belongs to. The desire to make fortune through ivory and to discover hidden relationship with the savages, Kurtz generated to their joint power by using his authority as divinity to help him attain his goals. But he should not be viewed simply as a man who did everything under his willpowers. His behavior of subjugating the natives and even slaughtering them in the inner station was neither accused nor stopped by the trade company. Kurtz’s madness can be displayed in many ways as Marlow perceives him in Congo and one of the prominent signs is demonstrated by the impaled heads on sticks that led to Kurtz’s home which shows the cruel behavior of European colonizers during Conrad’s time. His devilish works represents the lust of wealth and the madness of European civilization which didn’t spare its brotherly races. The Russian that nursed and aided Kurtz during his sickness was also not spared by him, showing readers about the European colonizers’ behavior who didn’t even have gratitude for their life saver. Therefore, Kurtz cruel behavior in the novella represents the European colonialism.

Secondly, Kurtz’s greediness in the Heart of Darkness shows the emblematic relationship with the European colonization. The greed is the strong force and ideal that play a vital role in developing moral themes of the novel. Greediness is reflected throughout the novel and it is represented vividly through the greedy character Kurtz in the Inner Station at Congo. Colonialism is rooted on the extensive greed for materialistic world than eternal happiness. In the history of European colonization, colonizers are in the quest for various raw materials for the production of needy commodities at their home country. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness explores the unlimited greed for ivory through Kurtz. Marlow, the protagonist of the novel who travels into three stations; Outer Station, Central Station and Inner Station meets with Kurtz and discovers the greediness of colonialism. For the sake of getting ivory, Kurtz violates the moral principles of human values, slaughters the natives, punishes the law breakers and also leaves the old natives in starvation when they no longer can work for him. Zhao (2008) mentioned that Kurtz’s cruelty and greed are shown where he made the heads of natives who dared to offend him the notable decorations outside his windows and once he threatened Russian as he denied to hand out his small lot of ivory. This reveals the true identity of European colonizers during the colonization of poor countries.

Thirdly, the secret ideology of Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness illustrates the European colonialism. Conrad portrays Kurtz’s way of dominating the native Africans similar to that of European colonizers in his novel. Kurtz is seen as the most profitable company agent in the Congo due to his secret idealism. “Kurtz is a dangerous man because he gives the lie to the company’s humanistic intentions in Congo”. In the Inner Station, native Africans initially observed as a successful man behind them to educate and civilize their primitive way of living and beliefs. People living in the Congo had changed their beliefs religiously and lifestyles economically. Later the native people felt and realized that Kurtz’s ideology was not to lead a prosperous life but to make them slave under his control. Kurtz deceived the poor natives with his false civilization theory because his sole purpose was to extract ivory from the people and help to boost his profits. To fulfill his desires for ivory, Kurtz had brought miseries and disasters on the lives of natives. For instance, when the store room caught fire, Kurtz irrationally accused one man to be the victim of fire and was punished severely. He had done this mainly to build a sense of danger and fright in the minds of natives so that they would fear to defy his rules and regulations. Africans consider him as their deity or god and they follow his command and never deny his order whether good or bad. European colonialism shares the similar ideology while colonizing other country; clamming to civilize the native inhabitants and later to extract the various raw materials for the production of profitable commodities in their home land.

In conclusion, Kurtz is represented as a European colonialism in the Heart of Darkness through his behavior, greed and idealism. His behavior of treating native in a cruel ways depicts the behavior of European colonizers and the greed Kurtz had for the ivory shows the Europeans’ lust for the wealth. Kurtz’s ideals of educating natives to extract raw materials for the production of profitable commodities in their homeland reveals the Europeans ideals of getting raw materials for their own development and fooling poor countries during the times of colonization. Therefore, Conrad used symbolic Kurtz to show how Europeans did during the 19th to 20th century when Africa was considered as big blank in the map of world.


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