Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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What is the role of the company in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad?

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The company is Marlow's employer, of course, but also represents the power of European colonialism in Africa. The company's business is to extract as much ivory from the jungle as possible; it is responsible for building infrastructure to allow ivory to travel from the interior to the coast. The station Marlow journeys to is in a sense an example of how the company believes that bureaucracy can somehow subdue or civilize the jungle.

In fact, however, the company is shown to be incompetent and unable to manage even the simplest tasks (such as making sure Marlow has the rivets he needs to repair his boat) while also being capable of perpetrating unspeakable horrors in the name of business (such as the slaves' labor used to construct the railroad). The fact that the company, with all its resources, is unable to "tame" the jungle in any meaningful way suggests that European "superiority" is a kind of lie.

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