Heart of Darkness Essential Quotes by Theme: Civilization

Joseph Conrad

Essential Quotes by Theme: Civilization

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....


A company of travelers are aboard the steamer Nellie, waiting for the tide to turn so that they can commence their voyage. As they wait, they begin to discuss various topics. One of the travelers, Marlow, ponders a time when London was uninhabited except by “savages,” before the Romans came and sparked life into the development of modern civilization. He compares the Romans to modern-day explorers, colonists, and especially commercial developers, who go to distant places to make money. He thinks about the unrefined conditions which such people must endure until civilization appears. Rather than speculate on the good that explorers might bring to these dark areas, Marlow reflects on the nature of civilization itself, especially the colonizing process, which in the nineteenth century was viewed as a means of civilizing “uncivilized” countries. Marlow states that it is only the idea of civilization sparked in a dark region that redeems the whole colonial mindset.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 2

...The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. I was...

(The entire section is 1524 words.)