How does the novel 'Heart of Darkness' uncover the inner black face of the European civilization?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conrad's novel explores the prevailing attitude that most Europeans had to indigeneous people as colonization and imperialism increased throughout the world.  The meeting cultures was not friendly or collaborative, but one where European civilization sought to subdue and repress another.  It was one where the side with more money, more weapons, and greater organized armies ended up taking over and controlling other nations and their people.  Conrad's work reflects this as Kurtz, the supposed torchbearer of civilization, ends up becoming more savage and cruel than anything else.  He being the face of European civilization represents it at its very worst with the manner in which he interacts with those in the Congo, engaging in slaughter, cruelty, and barbarism under the guise of "being civilized:"

European colonizers see them as a subordinate species and chain, starve, rob, mutilate, and murder them without fear of punishment. The book presents a damning account of imperialism as it illustrates the white man's belief in his innate right to come into a country inhabited by people of a different race and pillage to his heart's content.

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Heart of Darkness

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