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Book Essay, Research Paper

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 Symbols such as, a white rag, white imperialists and ivory, no longer represent the good will of the imperialists, on the other hand they represent the exploitation and chaos that the Europeans have brought to the Congo.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

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