Heart of darkness is a novel which narrates the misery of the central African people after being visited by the Europeans. Therefore by using this novel a critical analysis of the impacts of the Europeans on the African Congo natives as well as their natural resources will be done. Besides that the book also narrates a story of a certain man’s journey which turned out to be very symbolic into his personal inner being. The novel basically gives a detailed story of Marlow; a seaman who is sent to Congo River via a boat with an objective of relieving Kurtz. The man whom Marlow is sent to relieve is a successful ivory trader who works for the government of Belgium. This paper seeks to analyze the inhumane deeds that were done to the natives of Congo by the Europeans through activities like colonization, abuse and racism.
The Background of Heart of Darkness
Before the two men met, Marlow had a great admiration for his friends because of his reputation and writings on African continent civilization. The experience which Marlow acquires in Congo forms his basis of the dislike which he develops because of the dehumanizing aftermath of colonization. Marlow is greatly disappointed when he realizes that the man whom he greatly admired and respected has transformed into a vicious and power hungry vanquisher of the natives of Congo. Because of the underlying circumstances and condition of the natives Marlow is left with no other option but to confront Kurtz’s ill behavior as well as his own elements which might make him succumb to his friend’s ill behavior. Some of the themes that have been used in the novel which greatly demonstrates the impacts of the Europeans on the natives include greed, psychological regression, destruction and a tough African environment (McCracken 813).
The Impacts of Greed
Greed is clearly discussed under the theme; restraint in the novel. This theme brings out the mentality of the European as a civilized man. Kurtz fails to suppress his actions which are clear reflection of one’s control of mind. The European seemingly looses his desired restraint in pursuit of ivory. The greed of the Europeans in finding ivory negatively affects the lives of the native Congo as well as the entire region as far as natural resources are concerned. The natives of Congo greatly believed the white man because they thought that he had a clean heart and a good intention of helping them out of their predicament. During Marlow’s adventure the only distinct thing he discovered was the respect and restraint of the native Congolese. He comes to this conclusion by finding out that his fellow whites have no respect for the locals because they take whatever is important to them with no respect.
This finding makes Marlow regret being among the so called civilized because of their constraint less society. Through this novel people are able to analyze the rationality of civilization as portrayed by white Europeans. The main objective for the imperialist monarchs who were sent to Congo was to transform the native Congolese. Lack of constraint in the Europeans made the world to be a terrible and demanding place for the natives. Lack of constraints made the white man to exploit the ivory of the natives which would have greatly helped them to better their lives. The damage that was done by the white man on the natives was immeasurable and unspeakable. The acts of corruption and greed which characterized the behavior of Kurtz drained the resources of the Congolese (Seaghdha 85).
Marlow makes a comparison which is an important reflection of the happenings in Africa Congo. He relates the image of the Europeans in the midst of the ancient Roman officials which to him is similar to the image of the Congolese among the British officials. The experience of Marlow and his crews as they come to meet Kurtz clearly reflects what the natives have transformed into under the influence of his fellow colleague. Marlow and his folks are attacked by the natives using their arrow arms resulting to the death of one person. The status of Kurtz as a god among the native Congolese and his brutal raids in search of ivory is a good reflection of greed. The stay of Kurtz and Marlow opens a chance for him to find out that the description which he was given of him is actually correct.
Civilization is viewed at two different dimensions in the novel for instance the dark and light side of civilization. Themes like obscurity clearly demonstrate the dark side of civilization. The nature of the work being done in the novel further reflects the bad effects of colonization. For instance Africa has for long been considered as a dark continent by many European countries. The Victorian era indicates all the negative connotations which were made in reference to the Africans. Many analysts indicate that Kurtz behavior must have been greatly influenced by Stanley Morton who was well known for his uncouth action among the Congolese who served for him as porters. Most of the people who closely associated with Kurtz had bad reputation among the locals. For instance Marlow encountered Leon Rom who presumably decorated his bed with the skulls of his victims which comprised women and children. These victims were a clear representative of Kurtz station post and they were about twenty one people (Leonard 73).
The heart of darkness put a great emphasis on mankind darkness as a theme. The scene where the narration of the story takes place clearly indicates the intensity of darkness which is a reflection of mankind status. The character of Kurtz is a clear representation of the hidden lurking darkness among those who are considered by others as civilized. Kurtz demonstrated this character among the Africans and in particular the Congolese whom he was working with. Kurtz character is the one which goes an extra mile to reflect inhumanity. The faculties which he employs are the exact opposite of the ideal self constructing report which he makes about himself as a civilizer. Marlow looks at him as a foreign immensity which is guided by august benevolence this; character attracts all forms of resentment. Kurtz expresses his benevolence through the statement which he makes about whites behaving in a manner that reflects superiority over the blacks.
Personal will has the capabilities of exerting some form of power and for these reason if the power is applied with a good objective it’s not able to bind people. In the novel the central station manager orders that each station should be a reflection of beacon which is on its way to better things. Therefore every station should be a centre for humanizing, trade, instructing as well as improving. There is much abuse and mistreat of the natives by the whites. The heart of darkness uses light and dark to symbolize good and evil of humanity. At the time when Conrad wrote his novel many European countries were out to colonize Africans and most of them had the desire to acquire the large pieces of land as well as other natural resources that were freely available in Africa (Barkan 188).
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Racism is among the themes that have been critically analyzed in Conrad’s novel. The novel clearly expressed the turmoil of Africans under the hands of greedy Europeans who were also out to colonize them besides utilization of the African resources. Conrad used Africa as a best example to contrast the civilization of the Europeans. The treatment which the natives received in the hands of the Europeans clearly contrasts the reasonability and civilized mind which they ought to have because of their advancement. In the novel it’s evident that the African and European interaction was mainly on the basis or racism. This is the trend that was employed by the Europeans in whatever African country which they visited. The impacts of racism on the Congolese were not lighter. It affected their day to day life in almost all aspects because they could not do things the way they wanted or the way they were used to (Schraeder 140).
In presence of issues like racism the lives of the natives were impacted negatively to a great extend. On the other hand the main point to put across is that civilization is merely a superficial thing because one’s it’s isolated from the moral and physical environments its impacts are neutralized and as a result people tend to go back to their old self. It’s reasonable for someone to think that these people who were sent on an altruistic purpose might have lost something useful on their journey and that was the reason for their transformation into exploiters and slave holders. In the novel we see an old native who is seriously beaten by the predecessor of Marlow who was considered by many as a quiet creature on allegations that he sold hens. Such incidence makes one to wander of what happened to the man who was sent on a noble purpose of civilizing the uncivilized.
This is the reason why the land was characterized by great demoralization. The Europeans treated the natives very harshly and as a result their mind was psychologically and physiologically affected. Kurtz was initially meant to portray the great things and plans which the Europeans had for Africa especially the Congolese. Kurtz was the focus point for the revelation of humanity quest and that is the reason why he was out to build his beacon station on a hill though he failed to realize the isolation and loneliness which accompanies such success. Kurtz who was supposed to be a prototype of the ideas of the European greatly failed. His main objective was to create light in a continent that was dark but he rather allowed temptations to rule his life maybe as a result of leaving his native country (Schraeder 140).
Power as exercised by the Europeans over the Natives
For this reason Kurtz like the Romans who colonized them experienced the abomination which comes as a result of fascination. Because of the many things which had changed in him because of lack of restraints Kurtz decided to control the natives of Congo who came his way. As a result he became engrossed in the rituals as well as cultures of these people. Despite the fact that he was in different cultural environment Kurtz completely lost his personal identity to the people of the different cultures and tribes which he conducted business with. In the novel Kurtz lost his European aspects and became just like any other African who is controlled by his super ego. As a result he conformed to the norms of the African people who were in great darkness. Because of his new found place the darkness which surrounded him made him to forget his personal sense among the Congolese. This behavior and act of forgetfulness is a clear reflection of what happened when the Romans colonized the Europeans. Therefore Marlow comes at the right time because he warns his colleague of the underlying dangers.
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Conrad’s novel unleashes serious issues. For instance most of the time the people who suffered abuse and exploitation in the hands of the whites were the same people they closely associated with and as a result the comparison between the superior civilized man with the inferior uncivilized man started to be seen. Therefore the truths which had been hid under savage started to come out. One important aspect about this whole issue is that the indifferences between people are not usually very enormous because this aspect is greatly influenced by the differential upbringing experiences. Other themes that can be exploited in the novel include imperialism and colonialism (Leonard 72).
The Demoralizing Impact on the Natives
The worst in the Congolese people was brought to manifestation because of the behavior of the Europeans. The demoralizing effect as well as greed birthed the worst in the natives of Congo. The Europeans practically ripped off the land of its treasures. The natives lost their ivory to the Europeans. Besides the great loss which was encountered by the natives of Congo; the whites practically treated them worse than slaves bearing in mind that slaves were very expensive in America. The slaves who were being sold in America were at least fed and kept in good condition in order to attract buyers but the natives were left to starve to death by their colonizers. They would not take care of those who become sick therefore they were usually left to die. Most of the people who served the Europeans withdrew to exclusive places in order to die slowly. Despite the harsh treatment which they received the truth remained that these people were not criminals neither enemies but they were still treated inhumanly (Conrad 27).
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Racism took its lead because all this abuse was as a result of their color which was looked at as a black shadow of starvation and disease. The natives were left to lie in a confused state as green bloom. They were fed on foods which they did not know and as a result they grew thinner and became sick most of the times. In spite the fact that the native people were referred to as cannibals the most distinctive aspect was that they had moral standards of very high levels than most of the Europeans who had turned out to be raiders. The Europeans plundered Congo and its wealth in terms of natural resources. Despite all the abuse the native people never stooped low to the extent of threatening the pilgrims in spite of their condition.
The Europeans usually handed three pieces of a wire that was made of brass to the natives on a weekly basis in exchange for their provisions in the villages which were along the river. This salary was not beneficial to the natives because they had very few options (Berezowski par.6). The Europeans came with modern technology and progress which did not merge with the live the natives were used to and as a result they applied god-like powers over them. All the agendas of the colonist were hid under ideas which were very lofty for instance progress and expansion and as a result the Europeans committed crimes which cannot be uttered. The coming of Marlow creates much hope for the natives who were greatly discouraged for instance Marlow views one of the natives as his equal. Such a change of outlook was very beneficial to the natives (Goonetilleke 58).
Power was used as a psychological tool over the natives with the objective of making them submissive to the Europeans. The Europeans made the native do that which was beneficial to them by exercising power. In the novel heart of darkness Kurtz had immense power over the natives and the jungle. He was purposely sent to take the treasures of Congo and its resources by force through employment of such strategies. There many people who were sent to the jungle who never returned and for this case Kurtz was obsessed with the lands ivory. Despite his greed for this precious commodity another important thing which made him stay long than expected in the jungle or Congo was the power which he had over the natives. Because of the inner fear Kurtz opted to make allies with the local and wisely made his environment to get used to him.
This inhumane act is evidently portrayed by the skulls of men who had crossed his path. The heads of murdered natives surrounded his hunt with an intention of warning any other native who will think of going against his desires. Even on his death bed Kurtz commanded respect which he presumably thought was entitled to him. This man influenced the natives negatively; they were obliged to follow every instruction that proceeded from his mouth. For instance at his command the natives went out and attacked other foreigners who had been sent to rescue him and that is the reason Marlow and his crews succumb to death after being attacked by the natives. The Europeans greatly manipulated the natives and Kurtz accomplished this by preying on the insecurities of the natives who were less intelligent (Conrad 74).
The natives suffered greatly at the hands of the Europeans. They were made to work extremely hard with unreasonable pay and those who did not follow the given orders were murdered. Most of the natives a long the Congo River died because of starvation and harsh treatment. The European raised themselves to a position of god that had to be respected and adored by the natives. Besides that Congo and its region was ripped off of its treasures and natural resources by the people whom they had thought would transform their livelihoods. Many African countries experienced the same things which were experienced by the natives of Congo.
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