Heart Of Darkness

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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In 1899, Joseph Conrad wrote "A Heart of Darkness" to show the evils of imperialistic physical force, superior knowledge, and it's disrespect of human life to rally the public into stopping this movement.

Physical force was used in "A Heart of Darkness" to try and keep order in the heart of a continent with no rules. As shown all throughout history, the Europeans forced others into submission with massive arms and firepower. This was no different in the dark tale written by Conrad. Our first real sign of physical violence was when Marlow was asked by a company to replace a steamship captain who was killed in a struggle with natives in Congo. This was a foreshadowing of the immense blood that is to be spilled later in his novel. After being hired by the company, he travels to Africa on a ship. This ship stops at several locations to drop off soldiers.

This leads us to believe that it is not just one small spot that is being taken over by the Europeans, but a whole given effort to control as much land as possible. After receiving his steamer, Marlow begins to travel up the river in pursuit of the inner station. During his journey, they see signs along the way, and several times feel that maybe the inner station has been destroyed. After some more traveling, they are attacked by natives. The reaction of the crew is that of knowing it was going to happen. Being undermanned and having no real chance of fending of all the natives, most members hide. But, even though there is no real chance of defeating them, some still fire back. This shows that the Europeans, even when defeated or under manned, still feel they are superior to anything and everything. This is one of the basic beliefs of imperialism. Without physical force, the Europeans could not even consider taking over and running businesses and colonies in the heart of Africa. The physical retaliation of the natives show that they hated the presence of the Europeans and would fight hard back against any one invading their homeland. The Europeans took the homeland of an entire race that had held land for centuries for just the simple reason of gaining political notoriety under the system of imperialism. They were able to do this partly by physical force. Although most of the public knew of violence in Africa, until this book was published, no one really saw the true colors of the physical action and to the disturbing degree of which this happened.

Under the system of imperialism, countries would use any means necessary to gain an advantage over others. Superior knowledge could have been the biggest advantage the Europeans had over the natives of Africa and they used it as much as they could. One of the first signs of superior knowledge was that of the natives still using arrows. It says in the text, "I made out, deep in the tangled gloom, naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes -- the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze colour. The twigs shook, swayed, and rustled, the arrows flew out of them, and then the shutter came to." From this we can tell that the natives were giving everything they had to try and stop the steamer. The crew fired back with weapons used with gunpowder, but even this advantage of technology didn't help them enough. However, when the steamer whistle was pulled, the natives scrambled in complete panick. This shows just how little the natives actually knew. Later, Kurtz says that the whistle is actually the best form of defense against the natives. This shows that the Europeans used this knowledge to keep a hold of superiority over the natives. Later in the book, it is seen that the natives see Kurtz as a supereme power, and make sacrifices to Kurtz like most would to a God.