Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Where does the heart of darkness lie in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness? Is this darkness illuminated by your reading of Salih's Season of Migration to the North?

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In the Heart of Darkness, Marlow, the narrator, relates his long fascination with the Congo, in the heart of Africa. At first, the darkness in the novella seems to lie with the Congolese natives, as Marlow winds his way down the Congo River deeper into the ivory-producing regions of the colony. However, as Marlow discovers Kurtz, the enigmatic station chief in the heart of the colony, Marlow realizes the darkness lies with Kurtz and the Europeans, who exploit the native Congolese people to produce ivory. When Kurtz dies, his last words are "The horror! The horror!" (page numbers vary by edition). Marlow says, "I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair" (page numbers vary by edition). Marlow realizes that ivory, referred to in the image of Kurtz's "ivory face," is the source of evil. White is evil, as are the colonial overlords who bring death to so many Congolese. The Congolese are not evil. The darkness lies in the souls of people like Kurtz who carry on the exploitative ivory trade in the Congo, and the novella illustrates the problems with European colonialism.

Similarly, Salih's Season of Migration to the North shows the dangers of European colonialism and of Africans' acceptance of European ways. The narrator of the book becomes interested in a man named Mustafa who has settled in his village after years abroad in Europe. After he returns home, the narrator sits by the Nile in his native Sudan and thinks, "Seeing the bank contracting at one place and expanding at another, I would think that such was life: with a hand it gives, with the other it takes" (page 6). Over the course of the novel, the narrator, though his association with Mustafa, realizes their western experiences have taken from them as much as they have given. They are stranded between cultures, and the narrator wonders about himself and Mustafa, "He had said that he was a lie, so was I also a lie?" (page 41). In other words, Mustafa says that his western experiences have rendered him unable to live in either the west or in the Sudan. This book, like Heart of Darkness, suggests the westernization of Africa brings darkness with it.

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