Goodreads: Heart of Darkness
Charles Marlow has dreamed of travelling through Africa ever since he saw the blank spaces on the map as a young boy. Employment as a transporter of ivory in the Congo gives him the opportunity of a lifetime but, as he journeys deeper into the continent in search of a famed procurer of ivory, Marlow begins to witness the dark side of colonialism.
Heart of Darkness takes readers on a journey to the heart of Africa, building up a suspense as intense as that which troubles the narrator as he sets forth to find a famed procurer of ivory whose influence over both the native people and the colonists has reached almost supernatural heights. The atrocities Marlow witnesses on his journey bear testimony to the destructive greed of the colonists; the continent is littered with wasted parts and wasted human lives, everything done to ensure “progress” while, in fact, very little is done at all. As the story progresses, a heavy gloom seems to settle over the narrator, cursing his mission.
Though the story works to uncover the evil of colonialism, however, it does so by focusing, not on the effects onthe native peoples, but on the effects on the colonists. Although Marlow witnesses dozens of Africans worked to death and left to die alone, as well as other such atrocities, he remains somewhat detached from these men—one wonders how much he views them as men at all. His language throughout the narrative remains somewhat contemptuous of the Africans and one begins to suspect that Conrad’s real concern lies more with the witnesses of violence than on the victims. White men, it seems, either become brutes or madmen when they venture into the Congo.
Conrad’s work remains, however, an important commentary on the effects of colonialism. Though its themes may seem heavy and, indeed, many of the scenes it narrates are calculated to inspire horror, Marlow retains enough of his sense of humanity to prevent the book from falling into complete despair. In the end, though, the humanity of the men perpetrating the crimes in the names of advancement may be the most horrifying aspect of all.