Heart of Darkness A Product of its Time

Essay by matrixhunterHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2005

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Heart of Darkness being written at the turn of the 19th century is a product of its time. During this time in history Imperialism was at its highest and Britain was everywhere as the saying goes, "The sun never sets on Great Britain", but during this time racism against minorities was at its highest aswell and Africans by many were considered by many to be inferior. Conrad's liberal use of derogatory outdated and offensive terminology can at time seem misplaced in our society but would have been the norm during the 19th century. Heart of Darkness reflects the colonial attititudes of the in relation to the native Africans who were commonly described as primitive, inferior and are marginalized in many ways. Before Africans are even introduced in the story they are discriminated against through the negative associations placed on them by simply living in Africa. After appearing in the narrative the African inferiority is confirmed and portrayed them in a demeaning fashion.

The natives are further marginalized by being denied the ability to speak which makes Heart of Darkness a one sided story and removes the ideas and beliefs that the native Africans would have to offer. The entire story is perceived through the eyes and mind of Marlow the narrator, a white European whom the western readers identify as having a positive and favorable personality. Therefore comparing the portrayal of Africans to Europeans we can see that both physically and intellectually the native Africans are greatly reduced to the image of being lesser beings.

Before the reader is even introduced to the characters discriminatory approach to Africans readers are faced with the word "darkness" in the title "Heart of Darkness". As readers become aware where the story is set they begin to realize this title is related...