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Imperialism And Hypocrisy In Heart Of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness is a novella written by British-Polish novelist Joseph Conrad in 1899. Marlow, the narrator of the novel tells his story to the friends on a boat on the River Thames. Marlow tells a story about his early life as a boat captain. While narrating his story, Marlow can be seen describing the existence of imperialism in the Congo region in Africa through various means. He could witness the natives suffering in the hand of European such as Kurtz. All the while describing his journey to Congo, we are able to find many features which serve as the helping hand to the imperialistic ideals such as, European hypocrisy nature, they came to Congo in the name of civilization but ended up exploiting them, the mentions of the ancient roman conqueror and the main intention of them being extracting the ivory and finally the shabby treatment meted out to the black crew by the white men.

First of all, in the novel the European states that their main intention to come to Congo is to immerse the natives with the light of civilization. However, their activity neglects to mirror their expressed intention of civilization since they take ivory from them by force and treat them inhumanly, which make it evident the presence of imperialistic ideals. Trivedi (2016, p.1) claims that “Conrad portrays how European are hypocrites for they claim to be going on a colonial journey to bring enlightenment to the ignorant, yet their sole purpose is greed”. In Heart of Darkness, European dominion is to its most extreme degree in the idea of hypocrisy of Belgium imperialism. Kivett, (2017, p.3) asserts that it is clearly visible that in the name of civilizing the individuals, misuse and mistreatment were going on. Over the span of civilization, European imperialist were leaving their ethnic moral and becoming savage themselves. Joseph Conrad attempts to reveal the hypocrisy of imperialism, since its pioneer underline the significance of helping natives, while actively misusing them. (2017, p.3). Thus, the imperialism ideals in the Heart of Darkness was clearly visible due to hypocrisy nature shown by Europeans.

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Moreover, subject of imperialism is introduced to us in the absolute starting point of novel when Marlow mentions about the Roman ancient conquerors. Ancient Roman conqueror were beast and caused numerous cruelties to English. Their conquest was “Robbery with violence”. They caught, ruined and shed heaps of blood all over. Rawhi (2014, p.5) states that “Marlow wishes to say that conquest can be excused only if the conquest performed some constructive work”. In the novel, ivory was the primary reason behind white men coming to Congo Region. The white men were brute and forceful, their main intension was to exploit the ivory from the natives (Sen, 2007, p.8). All the people were obsessed with the thought of the ivory in the novel. Mandsell (1991, p.205) asserts that the ivory in the novel symbolize the white men’s greed and their attitude towards the native. It turns into a source of gain for them. According to Raskin, “ivory is the driving force behind the denaturalization of the jungle”. Therefore, Marlow mentioning of roman ancient conqueror and the European coming to Congo to exploit the natives for ivory make it evident the presence of imperialism in the region. (1967, p.113).

Besides, the shabby treatment, the black native received from European fulfill one of the features of imperialist ideals. White men were found quite indifferent to the black and tortured them mercilessly. Had they been there to civilize and educate the natives then torturing them would have been out of the question. According to Ruman, (2013, p.25) the petty black criminals were generally naked and were moving like ants. Besides, about half a dozen of men were tied to each other. They were the image of disease and starvation in the Congo. One such cruel and evil attitude is shown by Kurtz, who represents the Europeans. He was not only possessed by evils but he became an embodiment of evil. Conrad (1902, p.62) asserts that “it was sheer robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale and men going at it blindly” Arnesor (1984) states that “Heart of Darkness, portrays how the European people assume themselves to be ‘civilized’ and regard the black people of dark continent to be ‘uncivilized’ ”. Thus, this attitude of Europeans shows them to be ‘savage’ rather than ‘civilized’. Their greed to exploit the Congo natives in the name of civilization and the ill treatment towards the native shows the imperialism ideals.

To conclude, the novel Heart of Darkness explores the theme of imperialism. It shows how the European tortured the natives of Congo in the name of civilization, while their hidden agenda was to extract ivory for their own benefit and exploit the natives. Marlow, one of the character in the novel refers about the ancient roman conqueror and describes how brutal and violent they were while colonizing. European not only showed their hypocrite quality but their ill treatment towards they people of Congo region showed all the imperialistic ideals in the novel.

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Imperialism And Hypocrisy In Heart Of Darkness. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from
“Imperialism And Hypocrisy In Heart Of Darkness.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
Imperialism And Hypocrisy In Heart Of Darkness. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 31 Mar. 2023].
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