The descriptions are almost wholly negative regarding everyone involved in the commercial exploitation of the Congo region. Pettiness and immorality characterize everyone involved, from the aunts back in Europe to the minor officials suffering through days in the jungle.
The system of ivory procurement is, it would seem, entirely corrupt. Evidence of this is wide-spread across the first half of the book.
Heart of Darkness has generally been read as a novel that exposes the hypocrisy of the colonial enterprise. Set in the Belgian Congo, it shows how the colonizers presented their efforts as philanthropy only to hide their exploitation of Africans. The novel shows how racism deeply pervaded (and perverted) the attitudes of the colonizers who considered African natives as inferior and savage. More recent criticism, however, has started to address the ways in which the novel is sometimes complicit with the racist views of its times. For example, some critics have focused on Conrad's description of Africa as irremediably "Other" and "exotic", a world which cannot be subdued. This is an example of how Africans are rendered totally "Other" and almost robbed of their humanity:
A black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms across the glow. It had horns - antelope horns, I think - on its head. Some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt; it looked fiend-like enough (64).
In passages such as this one, Africans are represented not so much as human beings but as devilish creatures.