Taking a Glance into the Heart of Darkness: The Ambitions and Failure of the Civilization Essay
Rethinking the historical events is one of those tasks that inevitably bring people to realizing their past mistakes and drawing experiences so that these mistakes would not be made further on in the future.
On Conrad’ Heart of Darkness, the lead character, Marlow, at first considers the reasons behind the Europeans who were heading to the wilderness of Central Africa as “civilized” and rather noble; however, further on, Marlow becomes disappointed about these reasons. After re-evaluating the ambitions of the people exploring the African continent in such an impudent manner, Marlow realizes that the true reasons behind the Europeans’ travel were far more egotistic than he could ever imagine.
Indeed, the goals of the people, heading for the terra incognita of the distant and savage lands are not quite clear; wisely enough, Conrad does not disclose the aims of the travelers from the very first page – eh only hints at the possible aims which the travelers might pursue: “But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect” (Conrad 9).
However, when it comes to discussing the reasons that made Marlow join the ranks of those exploring the uncharted lands, Conrad makes it obvious that Marlow’s intentions were most innocent: “Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration.” (Conrad 11).
It seems that for Marlow, only the passion for adventures and new experiences was the true motivation. Nevertheless, even Marlow has hard times with learning about the continent and its inhabitants:
After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist — obviously — in the sunshine. (Conrad 122)
Finally, he also lets some of the madness which the rest of the crew was infected with reach his heart, filling it with darkness as well: “I had to beat that Shadow — this wandering and tormented thing. ‘You will be lost,’ I said –‘utterly lost.’” (Conrad 137).
Therefore, the readers are left with guessing what the Europeans heading for the new lands are going to do. On the one hand, it might seem that the mission of these people could be quite noble; starting with bringing common knowledge to the pagans, it could expand further on to establishing relationships with the people inhabiting the uncharted places, which will supposedly include not only cultural, but also economical and even political ties.
However, Conrad clarifies the given issue pretty soon, explaining that the causes bringing the Europeans to the uncharted lands are far from being noble: “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force — nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others” (Conrad 9).
As Conrad’s lead character, Marlow, continues telling his side of the story, it becomes clear that the Europeans ware aiming only at cashing in on the inhabitants of the wilderness: “They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got.
It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind — as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness” (Conrad 9). The author stresses that the goals of a new European presence were to use the lands, the people and their resources and then leave the place, barren and forgotten.
Thus, the question of what the European people were targeting at when heading for the wilderness of the continent remains open. While there are some specks of humanity left in some of the characters, including Marlow, the narrator, it is still clear that the story focuses on the lowest of the low and their efforts to grab every single thing of the slightest market value.
The darkness within the man who came to conquer started to grow: “It had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation” (Conrad 92).
The above-mentioned, therefore, triggers the question whether these are the wild pagans, the gloomy forests of the continent or the wretched souls of the European conquerors where the darkness is born. It is quite peculiar that all characters portrayed in the novel pursue their own goals, though their goals seem to revolve around the same core, i.e., the desire to get their own profit out of the situation which they have trapped themselves in.
Hence, it seems that none of the characters reach their goals in the end; the attempt to conquer the wilderness ended up in a complete failure. Marlow’s point seems sadly legitimate enough. Driven by the supposedly huge economical and financial profit, the European travelers were defeated not by the threatening darkness of the African continent. It was the darkness of their souls that trapped them – the darkness of the people making their way over corpses.
Conrad, Joseph n. d., Heart of Darkness. PDF file. 17 Nov. 2012. <https://planetpdf.com/planetpdf/pdfs/free_ebooks/Heart_of_Darkness_T.pdf>.
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