Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad one of the major themes is the
perversity of the Congo. What is good and evil in the European world becomes
distorted and hazy in the heart of Africa. To the outside world white is good
and black is evil; it is as simple as that. This philosophy is embodied in

Marlow’s aunt, who believes that his job is to bring light into the land of
darkness and to enlighten the savages. This idea, however, becomes corrupted
when white objects symbolize suffering and greed instead of good, and light
images hide the presence of darkness. Symbols such as, a white rag, white
imperialists and ivory, no longer represent the good will of the imperialists,
on the other hand they represent the exploitation and chaos that the Europeans
have brought to the Congo. The main character Marlow is faced with this
confusion as he voyages through the jungle, and he must reevaluate his former
opinions, which no longer hold true. The European philosophy is shown through
the conversation that Marlow has with his aunt before commencing his adventure.

According to her, his job seems clear: to bring civilization and light to the"heart of darkness." Instead of focusing on the horrors of imperialism she
is disillusioned to believe that it is all for the better. The Europeans,
especially the British have no respect for other cultures or other ways of life,
and they truly believe that they are helping the Africans. Not by choice but
because of the "white man’s burden" they feel the need to "[wean] those
ignorant millions from their horrid ways"(28). To the outside this seems like
an earnest motive; however, once inside Marlow begins to see new forms of
corruption. Are the imperialists their to help, or are they there to make money
to fulfill their greed? He begins to realize that it is not the black savages
who represent evil, but rather the selfish whites. This corruption is further
shown through the novel with symbols that reveal that perversity of the jungle.

None of Marlow’s previous beliefs hold true in the Congo and he must
reevaluate what is light and what is dark. He is confronted with the distortion
of images and confusion at the first station. He sees a group of natives in the
shade and immediately compares it to hell. As he states: "Black shapes
crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to
the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the
attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair"(35). He notices one figure in
particular, one with a white rag around his neck. Is it the natives who create
this feeling of suffering or is it the whites? These people are in the shade
because they have nothing to live for anymore. The imperialists have destroyed
their way of life and now they are eagerly awaiting death. The corruption is not
in the black boy, rather in the white rag. What it symbolizes is not clear.

Marlow asks, "Where did he get it? Was it a badge – an ornament – a charm
– a propitiatory act...It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of
white thread from beyond the seas"(35). Marlow does not know why exactly the
boy is wearing the rag; however, he does know that the Europeans brought it -
along with suffering and corruption. Rather than bringing light to the natives,
they have brought nothing but pain and chaos. This confusion in appearances is
show again with the alternative motives of the whites. They are not
humanitarians helping a civilization out of good will. They are there out of
greed and corruption. Without the presence of society, the inner core of humans
is revealed and what is white on the outside is sometimes black on the inside.

This reversal of appearances is displayed in all the imperialists that Marlow
comes across. One is the manager at the first station. He gives the allusion of
being a gentleman with his European clothing and manners, yet inside he is
filled with crookedness. In order to maintain this image he must train a native
to follow his orders. He makes another suffer to keep the allusion of being
white. This distortion of appearances is revealed again in the uncle of the
manager of the second station. His skin color hides the presence of evil. Marlow
remarks that he "seemed to beckon with a dishonoring flourish before the
sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to