Theories: A Post-Colonial Criticism Of 'Heart Of Darkness'

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Sulky Devils: A Post-Colonial Criticism of Heart of Darkness
“And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler...and what he knew was this - that should the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evil spirit inside the boiler would get angry through the greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance.” (Conrad 45)

Throughout much of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, there lurks a theme of Marlow’s, and Kurtz’s, perceived superiority. When Marlow speaks of the natives, there is an air of pity in his language. He sees himself as more developed, although there does seem to be validity in his view. Marlow is a white man coming into the Congo, to work among
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It isn’t until he actually arrives that he realizes all the ideals and morals from which he departed had stayed there. Patrick Brantlinger explains that “The true nature of European philanthropy in the Congo is revealed to Marlow by the chain gang and the ‘black shadows of disease and starvation’”(Brantlinger 370), recalling the scene where Marlow reaches the Outer Station. Marlow is taken aback by the immense brutality imposed on the natives by the accountant, stating when first seeing them “While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees , and went off on all-fours toward the river to drink.” (Conrad 20). Although Marlow seems to sympathize with the natives, he never actively works to help them. And the language in which he describes them is more of scrutiny than sympathy, referring to them as “these creatures” (Conrad 20), and even when one was more than he expected, still only “an improved specimen...to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind legs.” (Conrad 45). This specific native was able to do more advanced work than the others, yet Marlow still believed that “He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his feet on the bank” (Conrad 45). This assumption that even the more “intelligent” (meaning perceived to be intelligent by Marlow as compared to the others) natives …show more content…
His gain of this godlike status isn’t even explained, but it is evident that he is superior to the natives. Foucault explains this strange occurrence by stating, “No one, strictly speaking, has an official right to power; and yet it is always excited in a particular direction, with some people on one side and some on the other. It is often difficult to say who holds power in a precise sense, but it is easy to see who lacks power.” Even in his dying state, Kurtz tries to be a powerful man, but he isn’t one. “When Kurtz makes his long delayed appearance Marlow describes him too… as a skeleton” (Stewart 320). Kurtz is trying to escape his reality by staying at his post. He wants to live the life of a god amongst the simple, because the immense pride he receives from it is better than anything reality has to offer. His exploitation of the natives’ loyalty and his realization of this is an explanation of his last words; that the misuse of the people from and of the darkness is truly “The horror!The

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