The Role Of British Imperialism In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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One constant struggle throughout human history is egotism. For centuries, people have wrestled with the inclination to do what they desire versus what is morally correct, and numerous stories have depicted this friction. In his novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad employs an egocentric theme to justify the actions of both Marlow and Kurtz and to illustrate Britain's Imperialistic views. As the novel progresses, Marlow becomes increasingly obsessed with Kurtz, a man he has never met. However, in the beginning of the story, Marlow was not interested in this highly praised man. According to the Jago text’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow says, “I had plenty of time for meditation, and now and then I would give some thought to Kurtz. I wasn’t very …show more content…
Furthermore, while on his journey, Marlow arrives to the camp to find that Africans are recruited as slaves, and, while he heads toward Kurtz, his ship is manned with African cannibals. This slavery illustrated in the story is another convention of British Imperialism. Britain intended to expand its power to bring about civilization, disregarding the measures that had to be taken. The British Literature textbook highlights this point: Rudyard Kipling...wrote short stories and poems glorifying the expansion of the British Empire. Indeed it was Kipling who conveyed that it was England's “burden” or duty, to bring civilization to the rest of the world. William Morris contradicted him, asking “What is England's place? To carry civilization through the world?... [Civilization] cannot be worth much, when it is necessary to kill a man in order to make him accept it.” …show more content…
Slaves traders attacked villages and sold the natives to companies. According to, “By the mid 18th century British ships brought in as many as 50,000 slaves in a year. These slaves were forced to work in coffee plantations or were used in the production of goods like cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, etc.” These cruel actions are demonstrated through the Africans that both Kurtz and Marlow have employed for them. Additionally, these men share the same callous attitude toward people of different races. For example, when Marlow is heading down the Congo River, one man of his crew is killed. His remarks are unsympathetic: “Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don’t you see, he had done something, he had steered” (362). Marlow appears to care only that this man steered his vessel. Kurtz, similarly, is indifferent toward the deaths of inferior races. Heads on stakes surround his hut, and, as he tells Marlow, “these heads were the heads of rebels.” This indicates the dominator versus dominated relationship between the whites and blacks respectively. Furthermore, African slave trade during this time period accentuates the egotistical attitude presented in this novel. Both Marlow and Kurtz lack respect for the African race; they care exclusively about themselves and their power or success they hope to achieve.

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