The Hypocrisy of Imperialism: A Critique of "An Outpost of Process"

Essay by morteamoreCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2004

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries imperialism was rampant. Most of Europe was trying to claim colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. The desire to acquire prosperity in this manner was rationalized at the time by most colonial powers. This rationalization essentially claimed that the technologically more advanced Europeans had a duty to take on "the white man's burden" as they called it, and bring light and progress to darker countries. The magnitude of the greed that prompted this colonization and the lengths individuals were willing to go to for such prestige and wealth is revealed by Joseph Conrad in his short story "An Outpost of Progress" by examining the hypocrisy of colonial domination, the weaknesses of the main characters and the society from which they come, and the inevitable collapse of the entire operation due to the blatant exploitation of the Africans.

Kayerts and Carlier, the two men who are in charge of the outpost, are insignificant pawns that are part of a large and merciless operation to colonize Africa.

The façade of the European nations is one of taking on the "white man's burden," in order to bring light to darkest Africa when in fact the ultimate goal is to acquire wealth, power, and prestige. Instead of focusing their efforts on the enlightenment of the Africans as they claimed was their purpose, Kayerts and Carlier were more concerned with the "exceptional opportunity for them to distinguish themselves and to earn more percentages on the trade." (The Harbrace Anthology of Literature pg. 930 ) The two men read a book titled "Our Colonial Expansion" that "spoke much of the rights and duties of civilization," (pg. 933) and "extolled the merits of those who went about bringing light, faith and commerce to the dark places of the...