Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Explain the irony in what happens to Fresleven in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

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Matthew Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The irony in Fresleven's fate in Conrad's Heart Of Darkness mirrors a broader theme of the story in which white colonialism seeks to tame, subdue, and overpower the jungle and its people, who are often described as "savages" or "monsters." Seeing Fresleven's death through that broader theme, the irony lies in Fresleven's mission to overpower the "savage" residents and in the fact that the residents ironically overpower him. This scene in which Fresleven is murdered by the tip of a spear mirrors the resistance of the tribal people to white colonial advancement throughout the world. Another form of irony is presented in how Fresleven is described, as he is presented as a gentle and caring man, only to die in a viciously violent manner. His death parallels the tactics—murder and pillage—that colonialists used to "save" these "savage" and "underdeveloped" tribes.

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Fresleven's death shows the terrible effect colonialism can have on even the kindest, most gentle of souls. Fresleven was widely...

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