Heart of Darkness' Sexism Essay

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Although the Heart of Darkness is encompassed with the essence of femininity, this novel does not do women justice. It is safe to say that Conrad's text can be found sexist for the portrayal of women, as demonstrated throughout, are non-complex characters and they simply exist for the male to gaze upon. From Marlow's perspective especially, women are treated as fanciful figures, pleasing to the eye, and inferior to the powerful male prowess, and therefore they are shown as incompetent compared to the opposite sex.

One could argue the spark that led Marlow into the heart of Africa was his aunt, and she believes he can spread his knowledge and shed light on a dark place. She writes to him, 'It will be delightful. I am ready to do anything, anything for you. It is a glorious idea' (Conrad 6). She is adored by Marlow, but not appreciated, for she will 'serve' him in any possible way and cater to his needs. She views Marlow as 'god-like' when he spreads his brilliant knowledge to lesser peoples, and in this way, Marlow is projected as the more intellectual human being, with the POWER to make a change, unlike herself.

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Later on, when Marlow and his aunt have their discussion Marlow states, 'It's queer how out of touch with truth women are' (Conrad 10), when his aunt was trying to make sure he understood how equal humans should be, and to keep an open mind to the different roles one can play in society. Interestingly enough, Marlow couples this with exuberant details of how 'excellent' and 'wonderful' his aunt is, while at the same time bluntly stating her stupidity, and then applying this to all of the womenkind. Conrad was not hiding his jaded opinions here, and we (the readers) can understand how his views will apply to the rest of the book. These sentiments can also be applied to Kurtz's 'intended' when Kurtz mentions her towards the middle of the novel, 'Girl! What? Did I mention a girl? Oh, she is out of it--completely. They--the women I mean--are out of it--should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse' (Conrad 44). Here Kurtz shares Marlow's perspective when he mentions that women should be kept in the dark in their little oblivious worlds, and men can take the brunt of life and its horrors, for they are stronger, smarter, and more superior, and women would lessen this egotistical mindset. In much of the story, women have casually been pushed aside, and Conrad never truly expresses their desires or true agendas, and although Marlow's aunt did secure his job to set sail, and Kurtz's women contribute to his mindset and attitude, Conrad doesn't explore their influences to make them more than the 'help' and they instead become a vague characterization in the story. For instance, they aren't even referred to by their names! Instead, they are referred to as Kurtz's intended, Marlow's aunt, or the African woman. Marlow for one takes zero time to state Kurtz's mistress name but chooses to remark on her physical appearance and comments that she is a 'wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman' (Conrad 55).

He finds her very attractive despite her heritage and continues to say 'she was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent (Conrad 56). This shows an appreciation for her looks but he now defines her as 'savage' because of her skin color (racist much?). He is both fearful and full of desire whenever he sees her. More importantly, the fact that she never speaks in this novel asserts another one of Conrad's ideas that women should take the back seat, and look beautiful but remain silent. A good read indeed, but Conrad's opinions are still rather troubling and contribute greatly to the entire book as a whole.

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Heart of Darkness’ Sexism Essay. (2024, February 23). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/heart-of-darkness-sexism-essay/
“Heart of Darkness’ Sexism Essay.” Edubirdie, 23 Feb. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/heart-of-darkness-sexism-essay/
Heart of Darkness’ Sexism Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/heart-of-darkness-sexism-essay/> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2024].
Heart of Darkness’ Sexism Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 23 [cited 2024 Apr 14]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/heart-of-darkness-sexism-essay/
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