Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
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Marlow says, “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or who have slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” Is Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, a criticism of colonialism?

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Conrad's Heart of Darkness is without question a damning critique of the horrendous suffering inflicted on the populations of colonized nations by their rulers, both sovereign and corporate. Yet the novella, which depends greatly on a skillfully drawn ambiance of menace in its African setting, is mainly focussed on the mysterious fate of a highly-regarded agent of an ivory-trading company named Kurtz.

Although Conrad suggests the ravages of colonial practices through the spectacle of diseased and chained laborers and an incident of torture, his portrayal of suffering remains intentionally vague in comparison with the reality he and his friend, humanitarian Roger Casement, are known to have witnessed in the Belgian Congo. This may be attributed to the conventional racism of that era, as well as possible fear of reprisals if his descriptions were more explicit. In fact, under the supposed 'protectorate' of King Leopold of Belgium, atrocities were common in the treatment of the large number...

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