This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Conrad's novella

Conrad presents us with an interesting novella. In it he unfolds not only the characters themselves but also the underlying issues which were present during those times. Some of these issues include the persecution of the natives, the comical appearance of doing things for an idea, and how even the most promising individual can become deluded and driven by the love of money.

To start off, Conrad does a nice job of explaining how abusive the Europeans were towards the natives. Take for instance the scene of the French man-of-war. It was shelling the coast for no apparent cause other than “there was a camp of natives – he called them enemies - hidden out of sight somewhere”. Why were the natives the enemy? What had they done? Here Conrad lets the reader decide that for themselves and through this strategy of ambiguity, he creates a large amount of suspicion in one’s mind. He goes so far as to make the reader have compassion on the natives as they endure their abusive treatment. Another example of this is the scene at which Marlow arrives at the outer station, when he discovers the dying. As one reads that section, a sense of the utmost pity is invoked. One begins to see just how cruel and savage the white were treating the blacks.

Almost from the beginning of the novella, Conrad raises the notion of what makes the conquest of the Congo a worthy cause. As he puts it, the presence of an “idea” is what makes something, such as they were doing, a legitimate cause. However, as Conrad continues his story, it becomes apparent that even with this “idea”, the desire of man take control and what follows is that which is seen in Heart of Darkness, nothing short of slave labor, threats, and brutality. This is illustrated throughout the entire novella. The terms which the natives were called, the chains they were put in, and even those who had become “civilized”, they were not treated much better than the slaves they were in charge of.

Finally there is Mr. Kurtz. The one who all thought so well of, yet in the end, he was the worst. A dictator and a tyrant at his highest and through him many suffered. How could such a man who was exalted to godlikeness be truly no better, if not worst, than his peers? This just goes to show how deceived the whites had become about what was really going on. Instead of seeing the lives they crushed, they saw figures and statistics. Instead of torture, they saw punishment for “criminals”. All they saw (or were willing to see) was the potential money which could be gained and because of this, they were willing to trample down anything which dared to get in their way.



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