This paper posits to investigate the key ideas or themes in the book Heart of Darkness. Themes are the basic and commonly universal ideas scrutinized in all literary works. The book Heart of Darkness revolves around Marlow, who is a pensive sailor, and his expedition upriver Congo with an intention to get together with Kurtz. Kurtz is presumed to be an idealistic gentleman of immense aptitude. Marlow assumes the position of a captain in a riverboat with a Belgian company in the Congo. As Marlow travels to Africa, along the Congo, he experiences widespread inadequacy and viciousness in the Company’s posts. The native populace of the area has been compelled to work in the Company, whereby they suffer horribly from ill-treatment and overwork from the agents of the Company. The squalor and cruelty of imperial enterprise differ sharply with the majestic and impassive jungle surrounding the settlements of the white man, thus making them look like tiny islands in the middle of vast darkness (Conrad 10).
Heart of Darkness investigates the issues that surround imperialism in complex means. As Marlow journeys to the Central Station from the Outer Station and lastly up the river towards the Inner Station, he experiences scenes of near-slavery cruelty and torture. At a minimum, the incidental landscape of the book presents a harsh depiction of colonial ventures. The impetus that motivates Marlow’s adventures also, implicates the hypocrisy innate in the rhetoric utilized to rationalize imperialism. The Company’s personnel describe their occupation as “trade,” and their handling of indigenous Africans is a component of a munificent scheme of civilization. Kurtz, on the contrary, is honest about the reality that he is not trading but rather forcefully takes ivory, and he therefore, describes his personal treatment of the indigenous Africans with the remarks such as extermination and suppression (45).
Kurtz does not conceal the reality that he rules by means of intimidation and violence. His perverse sincerity leads to his ruin, as his accomplishments threaten to reveal the wicked practices in the wake of European dealings in Africa. Nevertheless, for the Company, as much as for Marlow or Kurtz, Africans in this novel are mostly equipments. To Marlow, his helmsman can only be referred to as a piece of equipment, while Kurtz’s mistress, who is an African, is at best a bit of statuary. It may be argued that the book participates in tyranny towards nonwhites that is increasingly sinister and harder to mitigate than the open cruelty of the Company’s personnel or Kurtz (51).
According to Marlow Africans become a measly backdrop, a human show against which he would play out his existential and philosophical struggles. Their exoticism and existence facilitate his self-contemplation, thus, this dehumanization is increasingly intricate to identify than open racism, or colonial violence. While Heart of Darkness grants a powerful disapproval of the hypocritical dealings of imperialism, it as well as offers a set of concerns that surround race that is ultimately disconcerting (24).
Madness on Account of Imperialism. Madness is strongly related to imperialism in this novel. Africa is accountable for mental degeneration and physical ill health. Madness has two most important functions that include; firstly it serves as a sardonic device to hook up the reader’s sympathies. Marlow is told from the onset that Kurtz is mad. Nevertheless, as Marlow, as well as the reader, embark on forming a more inclusive image of Kurtz, it becomes evident that his madness is merely relative, that, in Company’s perspective, insanity is complex to define. Consequently, both the reader and Marlow start to empathize with Kurtz and perceive the Company with misgiving (37).
Madness also operates to establish the inevitability of societal fictions. Although societal mores, as well as, explanatory justifications, are exposed throughout the book to be entirely false and also leading to wickedness, they are nonetheless essential for both individual security and group harmony. Madness, in the novel, is a consequence of being detached from one’s societal context and subsequently allowed to be the solitary arbiter of one’s personal actions. Madness is as a result, linked to humanity’s fundamental fallibility, and also to absolute power as well as moral genius. This is seen in Kurtz, since he has no authority to whomsoever he answers to, but himself. This is evidently more than one person can bear (50).
The Irrationality of Evil. This short story is, above all, an investigation of hypocrisy, moral confusion, and ambiguity. It explodes the notion of the proverbial option between the less significant of two evils. Marlow the idealistic is compelled to align himself with the openly wicked, defiant Kurtz, or the malicious and hypocritical colonial bureaucracy. It becomes clearer that, attempting to judge any of the two alternatives is an act of idiocy (65).
How can ethical standards or societal values be pertinent in judging wickedness? Is there something such as madness in a world that is already insane? The ridiculous circumstances Marlow experiences act as manifestations of the larger problem. This may be seen when Marlow witnesses a man attempting to use a bucket that has a large hole to carry water. The illogical involves both inconsequential silliness as well as life-or-death concerns, often concurrently. That the mundane and the serious are treated correspondingly, suggests a weighty moral confusion as well as tremendous hypocrisy.
Conrad, J. Heart of Darkness. J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd, London, 1974. Print.
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