Heart of Darkness centers around a man named Marlow, an inward – looking sailor, and his journey up the Congo River to meet a man named Kurtz. Marlow takes a job as a riverboat captain for an ivory trading company in the Congo. As Marlow travels through the Congo he sees a lot of carelessness and disorganization in the company’s stations.
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Marlow sees how the native inhabitants have become slaves for the company. According to Marlow, colonialism began because of the ivory which the Europeans were very hungry for. All the way through his journey up the Congo and into the Heart of Darkness, the true purpose of colonialism and the European capitalist approach is uncovered.
Before we can talk about colonialism in the book we must first understand what it is. Colonialism is the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. Now let’s talk about how Conrad colonializes Africa in the book. Conrad uses Marlow to tell his story of how everything took place. The story starts with Marlow on ship on the Thames River. The first time the theme of colonialism is brought up is on page 2 when Marlow talks about the old river, he says “the old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth…” The rivers are very important and complicated symbols throughout Heart of Darkness, and Marlow presents the Thames as “unruffled” and possessing a “tranquil dignity.” The waters that he is describing here is responsible for the violent colonial events treated later in the text.
There were many purposes for colonialism according to Marlow. One of the main reasons for the colonialism of Africa is the ivory business.
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