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Theme of Colonialism in "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

Updated on February 19, 2020
Malik Samreen Fatima profile image

Samreen has a keen interest in all aspects of Literature and writes extensively on the subject.

Theme of Colonialism in "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

Themes are often universal ideas explored in a literary work. In the novel 'Heart of Darkness' there are many themes but Colonialism and imperialism are most important. Basically this novel is set on river Congo. Congo brought partition of Africa. European had set a conference and decided that all European countries should be free to enter into the interior of Africa.

Marlow says in this novel that white man had failed in their purpose to civilize the natives of dark continent, Africa. Whether, they had come with the purpose of civilizing the uncivilised natives of Africa but they themselves turn into brutes and exploit the natives of Africa.

In Congo there was a Bulgian king who was ruling. Bulgian trading companies send it's agent for trade. Like Bulgian agent, Mr Kurtz had come for trade but here he started collecting ivory.

Ivory was the chief concern of European. They collect ivory and sent it to Europe. Ivory is the symbol of European's greed and commercial mentality. These Europeans occupied Congo without any consideration that there already people are inhabited.

Marlow describes those sights which he has seen in Congo, which depicts misery of natives. Manager of central station told Marlow that Mr Kurtz collects more quantity of ivory than all other agents collect together. A Russian told Marlow about Mr Kurtz that Mr Kurtz threatened him to give him ivory which had gifted from native tribal chief.

Marlow depicts miserable picture of the natives of Congo. Marlow sees people most of them were naked and treated like insects. An other occasion he sees half a dozen of people chained to each other.

In conclusion, we can say that Colonialism and imperialism are most prominent themes of the novel 'Heart of Darkness' , in which exploitation of European countries is very beautifully described. And how they had come with false slogan to civilize the natives of Congo with the hidden attention to exploit the Africans. Through this novel Joseph Conrad exposes Europeans who exploit on the name of civilization.

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