How is one group or ideology privileged over another in this text? (race & ethnicity in heart of darkness.)

Essay by mermaid_h2oHigh School, 12th gradeA-, September 2003

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Heart of Darkness

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At the turn of the 19th century European imperialism, even though racist and corrupt, was viewed as "a crusade worthy of this century of progress" (Introduction {to Heart of Darkness}, Robert Hampson. pg20) by King Leopold of Belgium. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, reflects the colonial attitudes of that time, in relation to the black Africans who are commonly viewed and described as primitive and inferior and are marginalised in many different ways. Before Africans are even introduced in the story they are discriminated against through the negative associations bestowed upon the setting of Africa - their home. After appearing in the narrative, the Africans' 'inferiority' is confirmed through the Europeans' adverse portrayal of them, demeaning and belittling them. They are further marginalised through being denied the privilege or right to speak, creating a very one-sided story disabling the Africans' views and ideas.

They are perceived through the eyes of the main character, Marlow, a white European who, through a 'frame' narrator, has a positive and favourable personality presented to the readers. Therefore, by also comparing the Africans to Europeans, both physically and intellectually, the natives are further reduced to lesser-beings.

Before even being presented with Marlow's rather discriminatory approach to the Africans, readers are faced with the word 'darkness' in the title "Heart of Darkness". Through gaps and silences (as readers are aware where the story is set) this title is related to Africa, with darkness insinuating all degrees of negativity towards the African continent and, therefore, assuming also the African people. Many of the connotations of darkness, such as ignorance (stupidity), primitive natures, evil and death are later reinforced through the events which occur during Marlow's adventure and from his strong point of view. At the very...