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Racism In Heart Of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad analyzes the moral aspects of the ivory trade in the Congo and imperialism in general. The way such activities are carried out by colonial companies are shed in a negative light throughout the story. Although the exploitation of Africa by these powers is castigated, the reader is left to wonder whether Joseph Conrad perpetuates the stereotypes that are used to justify the imperialism. His condescending stance towards the natives cannot be ignored and although he condemns imperialism on the basis of its brutality, he ignores if not consents to it on the basis of racism.

Upon the main character's, Marlow's, arrival in the Congo, the trading scene is portrayed as something larger than life, yet in a disapproving manner. At the station, he noticed that the men "wandered in here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it." (Part 1, page 91) This description depicts the ivory traders as if possessed by a craze, and leads the reader to assume that they would go to lengths and perhaps use unsavory tactics to get a hold of the ivory. Later on, Marlow describes the objectives of a group of traders: "to tear treasure out of the bowels of the land..., with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe." (Part 1, page 101) These descriptions clearly portray the actions of the company in a negative way. Thus, Marlow's observations are used as a basis for the anti-imperialistic theme of the book.

However, while on one side Conrad criticizes this exploitation, he does nothing to rebuke any racist attitudes. If anything, he helps foster racial stereotypes and subconsciously justifies the need for civilizing the area. One of Marlow's observations state that "black figures strolled about listlessly, pouring water on the glow, whence proceeded a sound of hissing, steam ascended in the moonlight, the beaten nigger groaned somewhere." (page 95) Such a description is very condescending and is telling the reader that the natives are not worthy enough to be considered human; they are simply black



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