From a reading of page 29 to page 36 which describe Marlow's first impressions of Africa, what attitudes do you think Conrad is conveying of the impact of Europeans on Africa?

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From a reading of page 29 to page 36 which describe Marlow’s first impressions of Africa, what attitudes do you think Conrad is conveying via his narrator (Marlow) of the impact of Europeans on Africa?“Heart of darkness” questions the morality and effects of European colonisation of the African continent. The book was written in the early 1900’s when the great empires of the European powers were at their strongest point and the social aims of colonisation were to modernise the “savages” which inhabit these countries. “Heart of darkness” challenges this and provides a scenario where the reader can determine whether this was morally correct.

In the novel Marlow is escorted on a paddleboat by a group of natives/savages and describes them flatteringly. He describes them as having “a wild vitality” and a “intense energy of movement.” This is important as Marlow almost admires these `savages’ which are actually healthy, strong and civilised men who already have a good way of life without the intervention of European civilisation.

To expand on this Marlow uses a list to describe these men, and his tone of language expresses his admiration and acceptance of the natives. This is because Marlow is a well-travelled seaman as was Conrad, (the author) who is willing to leave his ship and experience different cultures unlike the many other Europeans at that time. To expand on the word `vitality’ Marlow uses it in order to represent the illuminating qualities of these men, it could mean that they are healthy and untamed in comparison to other natives who have been `enlightened’ to the European way of life that we see later. Alternatively, it could mean that these men are enlightened in their own way as they have a freedom to live prosperously in a corrupted and demanding country. Alternatively, Marlowe could be envious of these people. This is because they have qualities what Marlowe craves, as do all other Europeans and the wrath of colonisation only to establish the strengths of the white man. The effect this has on the reader is the understanding that not all of the theory about colonisation is right and that the untamed natives are more prosperous than we are in a different way. This is also a recurring point by Conrad throughout the book.

As I mentioned before that Marlow encounters native Africans who have been modernised/freed/tamed/enslaved. Marlow describes them as having “limbs like knots in a rope” and that he could “see every rib.” There is also an iron collar on each of the men. As you can see these described men are the contrasts of the other free natives. This resembles the irony of colonisation, as these men have been introduced to the British way of living but evidently they have also been introduced to a dictated way of life where as the men who rowed Marlow had been excluded from modernisation yet still retained a healthy frame and social attitude. The description of their frame also implies malnutrition and extreme labour. The language used depicts a tone of disgust from Marlow, which is implemented because of Conrad’s personal attitude of disgust towards colonisation. The men who were being mistreated were being called ` criminals’ which is an excuse which is highlighted by Marlowe/Conrad as these men were probably not even criminals but more like victims of a white man’s trade. Marlowe describes them as being “unearthly,” this is the point in which the writer (Conrad) has revealed his opinion on what is seemed to be discipline but under the surface, the fear of the slaves to even look at a white man. It is evident that the mistreatment of natives for a `Greater Cause’ is unnecessary because they were suffice before British intervention. This could also be interpreted as Marlowe expressing pity on the slaves as he is a defender of the greater cause. The effect his has on the reader is an invitation to think about the reality of colonisation, in where the white man brings the hope of civilisation and a reality of destruction to an already established civilisation.

To conclude Conrad uses the main character Marlowe as a narrative instrument in order to convey a message, which Conrad obviously feels personally connected. The situation where Marlowe observes different types of people, who are affected and people who support the `Great cause.’ The book delves into the theory that if a man is given a position of power, he is likely to think he is god. This is clearly a situation that Conrad feels is important and therefore wrote a successful novel about it.

(2 pages – 770 words)notes : all references are made to the book "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad