How are the issues of race and imperialism woven into Heart of Darkness?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kurtz concludes that Europeans must "'Exterminate all the brutes!'"  Marlow suggests that Kurtz's time in the heart of Africa has caused him to exhibit a primitive, instinctual nature, a nature that Marlow suggests is in all civilized societies, just waiting to re-emerge.

Kurtz becomes a god to the natives because he has unabashedly moved from superego (ethics) to id (desire) in his time in the jungle.  They see him as a grand paradox, able to operate in two words and, in the end, choosing their world instead of his own native one.

Look at Marlowe's description:

"All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, and by and by I learned that most appropriately the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report for its future guidance." (p.49)

Look at what the Harlequin says of Kurtz:

"'You don't talk with that man-you listen to him.'" (p. 53)

"'I tell you,' he cried, 'this man has enlarged my mind.'" (p. 54)

"'You can't judge Mr. Kurtz as you would an ordinary man.'" (p. 56)"But his soul was mad.  Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad." (p. 66)