Corrupt Cosmopolitanism and the Savage Garden
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is the story of the meeting of two worlds, the so-called "advanced" society of Europe and the "Primitive" society of Africa. Throughout the novel he explores the various characteristics that reveals what it means to be "civilized" juxtaposed with what it means to be "savage." During the story white Europeans are portrayed as powerful and educated, faithless and greedy, whereas the black Africans are weak and uneducated, faithful and selfless.
At the beginning of his story, Marlow relates to his friends a scene that clearly portrays the power relationship between the European company men and the native Africans. When he arrives at the Outer Station, he greeted at first by "six black men ... toiling up [a] path", "each [having] an iron collar on his neck."(pgs 12 - 13) They are called "enemies" (pg 11), "criminals" (pg 13), and "nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation" (pg 14).
Descriptions of the natives frequently liken them to mere animals: "one of these creatures ... went off on all fours towards the river to drink. He lapped out of his and, then sat up in the sunlight ... and ... let his wooly head fall on his breastbone" (pg 14). This imagery immediately precedes the image of the angelic chief accountant whom Conrad describes as a "miracle" (pg 15). Moreover, Marlow "respected the fellow" (pg 15) because of this display of wealth and power.
The vast majority of the savage Africans are uneducated. This results in their being treated as sub-human, and, despite the great number of them who perish during the course of Marlow's story, not one of them is mourned for. This is apparent early on when the chief accountant complains that he "'[hates] those savages-[hates]...