Discuss how The Heart of Darkness reflects the paradoxes of imperialism in the late 19th century

The first paradox of Heart of Darkness refers to how the civilising mission of imperialism resulted to the dehumanisation of the colonisers. When waging imperialism, Europeans asserted their moral, social, and intellectual ascendancy, as they aimed to civilise all that is brute and different from their culture. Conrad shows, however, that the Western imperialist man has lost his heart to the darkness of imperialism. Maritime Hennard Dutcheil De La Rochere argues that Conrad uses the body of Africa as a trope for the ironic effects of European civilisation on colonised countries. De La Rochere asserts: …[the] central idea… the civilising mission [is] a spiritual and moral cure, is radically undermined through an ironic literalisation of the trope… (186). Imperialism sees itself as a cure, which must be directly applied to the heart of Africa to cure it of its backwardness. The paradox is that the cure harmed the doctors too. In the case of Kurtz, he became consumed of his desire for wealth, so that he would be worthy of his Intended. Imperialism, nevertheless, does not cure the uncivilised, but destroys the civilised and their notion of morality. Kurtz engages in immoral acts of waging wars with other tribes to acquire their ivories. Ivories are expensive. they are the symbols of wealth and power. The concept of a new life whets Marlow’s appetite for adventure and fortune too. Despite the skirmish with the natives, he desires to see Kurtz to find out the truth. When he learns the truth, he regrets it. Imperialism stains people’s very core, their very soul. William Atkinson argues the horror of imperialism (374) that Conrad criticises. Wealth and power consumes Kurtz’s humanity. He is sick, not only because of living in a strange land, but more so because of the sickness of being an imperialist tool for human exploitation. The horror that captivates his last moments on earth is his horror and the horror of every European who sets foot on foreign lands to abuse the natives and their resources. The second paradox is that imperialism do not truly civilise the natives, but produces the counter-effect of large-scale dehumanisation that mars both native and Western civilisations. Dehumanisation occurs because of racial prejudice. Hunt Hawkins believes that Conrad criticises imperialism’s goals and means. When Marlow gets the first glimpse of the company’s chief accountant’s clean appearance, he appreciates it as a miracle (Conrad 15). The miracle is an unsound image because miracles are holy. Later, as the accountant makes correct entries of perfectly correct transactions (Conrad 16), with the sick agent on his bed and a few feet away, Africans suffer in grove of death (Conrad 16), Conrad is disgusted. A clean outer experience does not have meaning when inside it is a cold soul. Another form of dehumanisation can be seen in the effects of imperialism. Instead of curing people, Europeans impregnated them with capitalist ideas that destroyed their collectivist way of life. De La Rochere underscores that the …embodiment of the jungle emphasises the human suffering this ‘civilising mission’ inflicts (186). Instead of developing the minds and virtues of the natives, the whites only corrupted them with their materialistic and individualistic concerns

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