Representation Of European Colonization In Joesph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Joesph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, he represents European colonization through the character Mr. Kurtz. Through Marlow’s exploration and interactions with him, he exposes that Kurtz’s behaviours represent the wishes of the industry who created him the Company. Joseph Conrad shows Kurtz’s greedy and lustful behaviour to exposes the falsity of progress and control within European colonialism. Kurtz is exposed to barbaric behaviours such as killing native Africans, establishing himself a sort of god among the natives while exploiting them for economic and ivory gain. However, these instances sprout his inevitable downfall and his superiors wanting to kill him. Conrad exposes this to critique the generation at the time, their incorrect and inhumane actions of colonization. In addition, he exposes the ugliness of desires that European colonizers had. He proves that colonization leads to more destruction than progression not only within the trade but with the colonizers themselves.

Conrad projects the success of European colonization through Kurtz’s regards from his superiors. Within the first impressions Marlow receives from superiors, Kurtz is presented as a “first class agent and a very remarkable person,” showing that he is highly regarded. Marlow is able to conduct an impression who Kurtz is and how he runs his trade. He reputation continues to precede him as he “Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together” demonstrating the positive progression of European colonialism and the praise received when collecting ivory. Conducting this information, the reader draws that Kurtz is successful and capable of control. Conrad reveals that is is a threat to other colonizers in the ivory trade due to his amount of success. As a brutal force in the trade Kurtz is recognized as a “prodigy”. His superiors hint the possible threat of him escalating his abilities, “today he is chief of the best station, next year he will be assistant-manager, two years more and but I dare-say you know what he will be in two years”, proposing that Kurtz may have full control of the trade in a short amount of time. However, this also evokes a sense of unpredictability with Kurtz’s power, showing that his great lengths will have consequences. With his successes for the trade, Kurtz has earned respect from his superiors and is placed on a pedestal. With these descriptions, characters within the novella are intimidated due to the loss of control they have over such a powerful character. Conrad continuously promotes Kurtz as an ideal candidate as he “was half-English, and was half-French. All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz”, suggesting that all of Europe contributed to his successes as well as his madness, and in turn, Europe’s actions of colonization were mad as well. The author critiques that something is wrong with the teachings and education that colonizers are receiving, as Kurtz one of their ideal men have gone mad. Though Kurtz remains in high regard, he still remains an active threat to others, like the manager, that is active in the trade, “Mr. Kurtz has done more harm than good to the Company. He did not see the time was not ripe for vigorous action”. Kurtz’s greed and infatuation have gone too far with his desires and are out of control, in the attempt that the manager is intimidated and threatened from his own personal beliefs on how to run an operation properly. The manager is able to detach Kurtz’s accomplishments from the present demonstrating Kurtz’s need for restraint and control.

Kurtz’s madness is fired further as he uses his power for personal gain. Kurtz becomes consumed with the thought of ivory developing a somewhat infatuation, “’My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my’ everything belonged to him. Using possessive words gives a sense of ownership and greediness. The thought consumes him and foreshadows his downfall of madness. He has fallen victim to the jungle’s awe. In Kurtz’s 17 page report, he is no longer rational or idealistic anymore, but rather promotes problematic front with, “exterminate all the brutes”. The obvious disconnect of his verbal expressions with his behaviours shows the uglier side of colonization with regards to genocide. His crazier actions promote that his madness and obsession will soon overtake him. When establishing his own kingdom, the first image that people see when arriving are “heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house”, concluding that his craziness and madness has extended to native Africans. He does not follow western civilization such as communicating with the natives, but in fact, makes the situation barbaric when people have tried to defy him. His crazy and deranged state shows that his cruelty is so powerful that it will be inevitably the end of him. Kurtz madness extends towards others as he “got the tribe to follow him and adore him,” exposing them to his cruel desire of stealing ivory from other tribes. Like his superiors, Kurtz is able to persuade the villagers to the extent where he is a god to them, “he came to them with thunder and lightning, you know and they had never seen anything like it and very terrible. He could be very terrible”. This shows that the natives rely on him. In Kurtz’s 17 page report, he is no longer rational or idealistic anymore, but rather promotes problematic front with, “exterminate all the brutes”.

Kurtz continues to isolate himself and shows the effects that colonialism has on the person. “as a rule Kurtz wandered alone, far in the depths of the forest’. Kurtz isolates himself showing that his insanity is beginning to deteriorate himself. He leaves the devoted harlequin, who is the only person that can understand his actions that Europe has instilled on him. He is so consumed with what he has established, that no matter how far he goes into the depths of the forest, his kingdom that provided him power and wealth is inescapable. Kurtz “struggles with himself and has no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling with himself,” foreshadows that the lines of morals have been crossed. His lost soul is drowned from his lack of self-restraint and human restraint. His madness officially blinded him to any sort of possible redemption. He is at the point of no return. In Kutz’s last moments till death, his obsession still grows as he is sick. However, he is crazed and insane, “Sick! Sick! Not so sick as you would like to believe. Never mind. I’ll carry my ideas out yet I will return. I’ll show you what can be done, “he still remains paranoid at the brink of death. The madness made him physically sick and his bodily sickness mirrors his corrupted mind. He still thinks he is going to succeed in his attempt to get more ivory. Kurtz believes that the manager’s “peddling notions” are meaningless. It demonstrates that his passion and immense obsession over ivory will be a part of his downfall. Kurtz’s corruption finally reaches him as he is dumbfounded and afraid with his last moments alive, “the horror! The horror!”. Kurtz at this moment realizes how bad human nature is and realizes his inability to have self-control. Kurtz refers to his own brutality and exploitation that he has witnessed and partaken in and realizes that is too late to change. He has been consumed by his desires and no longer has moral restraint. Conrad exposes his hostility leads to the blindness of actions and is only recognized as a monumental change within the person themselves. Kurtz at the end has not gained any happiness or self-satisfaction from his hard work. In turn, he loses what he has worked for while losing the grasp he has on his conscience. Conrad comments upon colonialism and colonizers within that, with the notion that everyone is capable of evil though they are initially good. The darkness of colonialism will soon absolve colonizers.


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