Heart of Darkness Reveals the Consequences of Imperialism (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Joseph Conrad’s novel revealed the horrors behind the rhetoric of nobility and idealism in which Europeans cloaked their imperialism.
Summary of Event
In 1874, seventeen-year-old Joseph Conrad left his Polish family to travel to Marseilles, France, to become a seaman. He sailed on vessels of several nations, but he became a British citizen in 1887. In 1890, he left the high seas to travel up the Congo River into the heart of Africa. His trip into the Congo Free State (later Zaire) inspired Heart of Darkness, which was published as a serial in Blackwood’s Magazine in early 1899 and in book form in 1902.
The story opens at dusk on board the yawl Nellie, anchored in the Thames River at London. Five men are on board, all bound together by their connection with the sea. An unnamed primary narrator repeats to the reader a story told that evening by a seaman, Marlow.
As the primary narrator looks out into the night, he thinks back to the days when men such as Sir Francis Drake sailed out from London. Suddenly, Marlow breaks into his reverie, saying: “And this also . . . has been one of the dark places of the earth.” Conrad thus signals to the reader that his story is not going to be a romantic paean to empire.
Marlow goes on to recall Roman adventurers who came up the Thames nineteen hundred years before. They were only conquerors: “The...
(The entire section is 2367 words.)
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