The Heart of Darkness The Paradox Of Imperialism In The 19th Century

Colonialism marks one of many countries’ common denominators. Needless
to say, the foundation of colonialism was imperialism, which quite a
large number of scholars have explored in varied works of literature.
While numerous scholars have covered it, none explores the topic more
critically than Joseph Conrad in his book that goes by the title,
“The Heart of Darkness”.
“The Heart of Darkness” is essentially an overview or outline of the
adventures of an ivory transporter in the African country named Congo.
In the course of his voyage, Marlow gets to know about Kurtz, an
ivory-trading agent. He becomes particularly interested in the varied
aspects of his business and especially the manner in which he dealt with
the native Africans. Of particular interest (and surprise) to Marlow is
the impunity with which the varied Europeans dealt on the Africans, all
in an effort to fulfill their selfish desires (Conrad 34).
Joseph Conrad has undoubtedly brought out the element of paradox through
the analysis of the imperialism subjected on the Africans. He brings out
an overview of the costly nature of imperialism, more so with regard to
the African invasion. According to Conrad, conquest brought in a
relatively low amount of returns in comparison with the capital that was
used to make the invasion possible. This simply shows that the results
of the invasion did not really justify it or justify the strategies that
were used in pursuing the objectives. The literature incorporates varied
notions pertaining to the absurd attempts that detail how acquiring
resources from Africa vindicated the effort that was placed in acquiring
them. The Paradox of imperialism in “The Heart of Darkness” is
clearly depicted by the manner in which Europeans treat African natives.
First, it is worth noting that Kurtz believed that he was bringing
civilization to Africans, which was undoubtedly a white lie. Africans
conceived him as a god, a notion that he cemented through the use of
intimidation and threats. It is worth noting that the intimidation was
aimed at scaring the African natives into bringing or supplying Kurtz
the valuable stones and metals. Initially, Kurtz was had come to Africa
in an effort to satisfy his immense desire for adventure. He
essentially aimed at improving, instructing, as well as humanizing,
which he had outlined in the first report that he made to the company.
However, he got rid of his philanthropic intentions after recognizing
the amount of power that he could potentially hold in the jungle. He
essentially created the impression that he was a supreme ruler, an
indomitable being and a god among the common people or natives. This is
essentially an indication of the excuse that Europeans used in
introducing colonialism and imperialism to Africa. Initially, they
created the impression that Africans would benefit more from them
through civilization and an introduction of modernity. However, it turns
out that they merely used this as a white-cloud to mist their true
On the same note, Kurtz practices imperialism through the use of the
company’s humanitarian mission or aim in the African country. His
outlines his mission as opening and exposing Congo and Africa at large
through education. It goes without saying that he tramples the European
values in Congo thanks to his use of dictatorship compel Africans to
bring him ivory. It is noteworthy that the station that Kurtz manned
held the highest collection of ivory collection, larger than all the
other collection centers combined. As much as Kurtz is carrying out the
company’s bidding, his approach was entirely wrong. He employs
intimidation without the smallest attempt at hiding or concealing his
draconian attitude behind a cloud of worthy or positive intentions.
Kurtz’s operation strategy does not escape the criticism of people
such as the manager even though he is also responsible for availing
ivory to the Company.
Kurtz believes that ideologies and strategies that he utilizes in Congo
would be of benefit to the locals as they would upgrade their
lifestyles. Nonetheless, this is not the case as observed by Marlow.
Marlow states that Kurtz is a construct of the entire Europe. He is
driven or motivated by extreme greed just like other European
entrepreneurs like the Company. His imperialism obstructs him from
caring about how other people like the Manager perceive him. Kurtz is
open about his greed and desire for power. On the contrary, Brussels is
a tomb for European hypocrisy hence they practice imperialism under the
facade of good objectives. The characters depicted by Kurtz are
exaggerations that are concealed in the hearts of individuals who are
attempting to establish empires internationally.
Despite being a white, Marlow does not embrace all the things he is
told. His skepticism makes him distrust even innocent remarks made by
other individuals such as the brickmaster and the manager (Conrad 26).
This character of sifting through the details of the things that he is
told assists him to discover that the definition of civilization he
developed from Kurtz and the company was wrong. Imperialism was their
way of attaining their selfish desires in the pretense of offering
assistance to the destitute locals.
In addition, imperialism is depicted by the rivalry that pits the
manager against Kurtz. The manager has employed varied strategies that
would prevent Marlow from offering any assistance to Kurtz, who is his
key rival in the company. When the Manager told Kurtz that he had gone
to save him when he was sick, Kurtz retorted, “To save the ivory, you
mean?” Marlow could also tell that the manager’s sympathy was far
from sincere. He wanted Kurtz dead simply because he posed an immense
threat to his job in the company. In fact, he was immensely overjoyed
when Kurtz died, which outlines the misplaced priorities that
imperialism introduced. These people valued position and money over
human life without a tinge of guilt.
Works cited
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Harmondsworth. Middlesex: Penguin
Books, 1978. Print.