Colonialism In Heart Of Darkness

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade September 2001

download word file, 6 pages 5.0

Downloaded 20 times

For all of Conrad's good intentions in writing Heart of Darkness, he was limited in what he could say and represent by his society and social understandings. He wrote from within the discourse of race and colonialism that was predominant at the time, and encountered difficulties when using language to attempt to represent those things outside his cultural arena. In writing the novel, Conrad could not escape the influence of his culture's attitudes towards colonialism and those, less civilized, races. "In Heart of Darkness "¦ the natives portrayed are not reduced by Kurtz or other whites any less than they are reduced by the author to a state we vulgarly call aboriginal" (Murfin 128). Despite the difficulties of representation, Heart of Darkness can be read as a critique of colonialism, a comment on the "vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration" (Cox 49).

Our understanding of the world we exist in relies upon the cultural discourses that we use to represent the world in terms that we can comprehend. This not only refers to the concepts we have, ranging from concrete to abstract, but to the language with which we speak to each other intelligently about those concepts. In writing, we cannot avoid the use of a language imbued with naturalized cultural concepts and often find, as Marlow did, that words are "unable to cut through to the truthful heart of things" (Billy 102-103). A number of times Marlow refers to this indirectly by describing the difficulty with which he captures the story he is trying to tell.

It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream "“ making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and...