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Compare and Contrast the views on imperialism as revealed in the excerpt from "Heart of...

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doubleohseven... | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted November 3, 2009 at 1:21 AM via web

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Compare and Contrast the views on imperialism as revealed in the excerpt from "Heart of Darkness" and the essay "Shooting an Elephant"

"Heart of Darkness" Joseph Conrad and "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

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seb-chan | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 4, 2010 at 1:59 AM (Answer #1)

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I had this same question not long ago, so I'm happy to give the answer I used.

Firstly, both works are written to expose the evil of imperialism, and are shown through the eyes of someone working for the British Empire who 'rules' over natives as part of their job. So both stories using a similar viewpoint (first-person POV) give a similar perspective. Just the *excerpt of "Heart of Darkness" given in my textbook uses first-person POV, the rest of the story doesn't.

However, in "The Heart of Darkness" Marlowe (the fictional narrator) seem kinda racist and somewhat nonchalant towards the suffering of the 'savages', therefore he seems indifferent to the ruthlessness imposed on natives by imperialism. (Later on he realizes that the blacks are victims but the way he idolizes the the white company accountant guy at the closing stages of the excerpt makes his views on imperialism hard to integer out.)

Conversely, in "Shooting an Elephant" Orwell is *very* clear about his resentment of British imperialism, from the first page he describes how much he is hated by the Burmese and how much it get on his nerves. However, rather than be racist or deem the Burmese as 'savages' he sympathizes with them because he realizes that they despise him because of what he represents-- a white European oppressor. Orwell's work clearly shows how imperialism causes a cycle of hate and corruption of traits (For example, he kills the elephant to hold up appearances as a 'ruler' of the natives) for both the rulers and those ruled.

Both works show imperialism destroying the integrity of the individual, but "The Heart of Darkness" doesn't show mutual hate as the corrupting factor, but rather somewhat imply that the natural 'savageness' of Africa degrades men into barbarians.

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