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This article forms a critical look into the abuse of human rights and manifestation of evil under the guise of civilization and modernity in the Congo region, under the imperial rule of King Leopold of Belgium. It offers a brief narration of Marlow who serves as the captain of Roi des Belges on the Congo trade route, greatly coveted by the imperialist for the trade of ivory and other valuables from Africa. The article focuses on presenting the evil manifestations from both sides of the divide that characterize the “Heart of darkness”. The narration presents evil that comes under the guise of modernity, as well as the naivety under the primitive life. The imperialists from the developed world are portrayed as a greedy who is a lot driven by lust and selfishness that makes him disregard the native Africans as savages that are primitive and evil. As a result, they subjected them to the forced-labour, torture and other forms of cruelty that led to a large number of deaths and suffering. This article portrays the irony behind the European idealism, which regards the natives as savages, whilst they continue to propagate savage and inhuman actions against the natives. On the other hand, the natives display great complicity and denial which allows the imperialists to continue propagating evil against them. The article is generally a brief presentation of the overall narration in John Conrad’s novel, but with a narrower focus on the presentation of evils that manifest within the story under different phases of the whole imperialistic quest to conquer and control people they regard as primitive and lowly. The story also brings out the naivety and complicity of the European people at home, with regards to what their government was engaged in, because like Marlow, some chose to neglect the facts whereas; others like Kurtz’s fiancé were totally oblivious of what was going on.
The article is a good insight into the evil nature of imperialists and the natives in Congo. It brings to question the actual nature of evil. The imperialists view the natives as savages and evil people, just because they do not conform to their standards of modernity and civilization. This is utter disregard of other people’s standards of life and culture. The fact that other people live a different life does not mean that they are not civilized. It is ironical that the imperialists do not see their drive for wealth in the region as a form of evil, yet it causes the natives’ death, suffering and pain. It is actually a clear case of applying double-standards. In the light of this article, it also becomes evident that evil is not only propagated actively by engaging in outright evil acts, such as forced-labour or murder, but it may be propagated passively through acts of complacency in which people keep the truth hidden and fail to act against the acts that are evidently evil. This may be exemplified by Marlow’s complicity and inability to face up to the truth and make it known to the world out there what was exactly going on under the imperial rule. Like Marlow, the rest of the population also displayed greater complicity, because they lacked knowledge on exactly what their expansion abroad was doing to the natives. The article and narration of the story show that the actual reason of imperialism was indeed acquisition of wealth, rather than taking civilization to the natives of Congo. In conclusion, savages may have been evil due to their engagement in ritualistic life, but the European imperialists were equally evil, considering the fact that they engaged in inhumane acts against humanity for the sake of their self-gratification.
Stewart, Garrett. Lying as Dying in Heart of Darkness. PMLA, 95.3 (1980): 319-331. Web
This article constitutes a literary critique aimed at highlighting some of the major thematic actions within the critiqued novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ by John Conrad. The major highlight includes themes of lies and death, which the critic brings out as the major characteristics of the story, which have common relations. The critical essay highlights evil in human nature that manifests in its basest of form in different ways, unshielded by civilization. It also gives a critical analysis of lies, death and cover up that characterizes evil as presented under the imperialist quest and their myths on Africans and their savagery. The imperialists that the narrator (Marlow) serves are portrayed as greedy, liars with a perverse allure of lust, lying and killing for the sake of imperialistic expansion and acquisition of wealth from the natives. This is clearly depicted by Kurtz final statement in his writing: “Exterminate all brutes.” Consumed by imperialistic greed and native savagery, Kurtz had turned in to a savage, evil person depicting both sides of the human portrayal of this innate human nature. On the other hand, the native blacks are presented as a primitively evil lot that still engages in primitive and evil acts and rituals, including sex and murder. The natives are not only evil, but they are also living in a denial and complicity that allow evil to thrive in the name of civilization and modernity. The essay also focuses on lies and deaths that occurred under the disguise of furthering civilization and modernity. The critical work brings to light European idealism, characterized by human ego that obscures the truth about what is evil or not, and thus, spinning to life lies and death, which bring about physical and moral decay. Marlow becomes the part of the lie-spinners by giving false information on Kurtz’s last words by euphemizing what he stated to his fiancé.
This critical essay is very insightful in bringing to light the role which lies play in the whole story within the “Heart of darkness.” The all imperialistic expansion in the Congo is disguised as a quest to further civilization and eliminates primitiveness amongst the natives. This is the lie that most Europeans back at home know and believe, but in actual sense the real drive for imperialistic expansion was wealth. These lies kept the European idealism alive, while causing suffering, pain and death among the natives of Congo. In line with the articles, title lies are portrayed as the major cause of death. Kurtz finds himself wholly absorbed in the lies of his imperial crown, and furthers the believe that the Congolese are primitive savages that need to be civilized in order to live up to the standards of modernity or be compelled to change. In the actual sense, the imperialists imposed their ideals on the locals, in order to have them submit to their will on matters of acquiring wealth. The lies of the imperialists cause death, suffering and pain to the locals under the guise of introducing better and modern life. The whole article shows that lies are spun to keep the people in the dark, in order to attain the selfish goals of greed. In essence, lies were the major cause of death in the imperial Congo region. Clearly, the fight here is not about modernity or civilization, but rather a struggle for wealth and the use of force against the weak. The blame of perpetration of these atrocities and lies cannot solely be borne by the crown, its servants, such as Marlow, are also to blame, because they know the truth, but they choose to adopt complicity and keep the truth shelved from the rest of the populace that does not reach the imperial front.