A Postcolonial Perspective of "The Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

Essay by happy_bubblesCollege, Undergraduate October 2007

download word file, 17 pages 4.0

Downloaded 105 times

Richard Waswo's The Founding Legend of Civilization and the Heart of Darkness use the definition and discussion of the terms imperialism and civilization, describing a pattern of analysis based on the novel that is particularly relevant of a postcolonial perspective. Thanks to its historical and thematic focus, Conrad's novel makes an excellent textual reference for a wide range of postcolonial novels. J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, André Brink's An Instant in the Wind, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, or Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart are just a few examples of titles suitable for this kind of approach. Despite their literary, geographical, and cultural diversity, these authors, like Conrad, emphasize the importance of constructing anti-imperialist attitudes within a personal, particular, and culturally specific context - a process which involves the experience of alien territory on home ground in order to question, analyze, negotiate and re-define assumptions about identity. Just as in these texts, Heart of Darkness presents the double-frontier dilemma, the issues of alien-ship and otherness in conflict with a sense of individual, political, or national identity and responsibility.

In all kinds of postcolonial studies, the concepts of Empire and Civilization are central. The fact that Heart of Darkness is universally considered the most powerful indictment of colonialism ever written makes it particularly valuable as a text. Conrad, as Edward Said puts it, "allows the reader to see that imperialism is a system" (Said xxi). What redeems "the taking the earth away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves" is "the idea only", according to Marlow (Conrad 7). The consequences of such an unconditional belief in the concept of Empire are brought to the forefront, and as a whole, the story demonstrates that the very idea of imperialism in itself. At the same time, though,