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Moral vision in Heart of Darkness

Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a master-piece, which in its brief compass, deals with a number of important ideas. But Conrad's main objective is to show the evil of the imperialistic exploitation of a backward country by a civilized nation. Thus Conrad's moral vision in writing this novel becomes clear. In this novel Conrad speaks to us through Marlow who narrates, interprets and makes judgements upon situations and characters, and through his mouth Conrad's moral vision comes out.

The keynote of moral vision may be traced at the very outset of Marlow's narration. Sitting cross-legged 'in the pose of a Buddha' on board, the Nellie before his friends, Marlow like a preacher says that the conquest of another country mostly means the taking away all things from those who have a different complexion. Marlow is critical of the white imperialism in Congo. The whitemen certainly has a duty to the savages whom he begins to govern, but his failure cannot be justified.
moral vision in Heart of Darkness

What Marlow experiences in the Congo is that instead of civilizing the savages, the whitemen turn into exploiters. The Congo at that time was being governed by the Belgian King, Leopold II, and the Belgian Trading Company was sending its agents into the Congo for trading purposes. Ivory was the chief commodity they sought for and it was of no use to the natives themselves.

Later on, we see that ivory becomes a symbol of the whitemen's greed and commercial mentality. The whitemen's chief concern in the Congo is to collect ivory but no where do we find any mention of any service being rendered by these whitemen to the natives of the Congo.

The manners and functions of the whitemen, as observed by Marlow at the Central Station and the Inner Station of the company, show their callousness and hypocritical attitude towards the natives of Congo. The sights seen by Marlow in Congo are very gloomy and depressing. He sees a lot of black people, mostly naked, moving about like ants. Later he sees half a dozen men chained to one another, and each wearing an iron collar on his neck.

The most glorious example of evil we find in Mr. Kurtz, the most prominent person among the whites. He has begun to identify himself with the savages. Instead of improving their condition he himself has become a savage in their company. Actually Heart of Darkness portrays in a nutshell the deceit, robberies, murder, slave trading and general policy of cruelty of the Belgian rule in the Congo.

Thus Conrad through Heart of Darkness exposes the hollowness and cruelty of all the imperialistic rulers in different parts of the world. Joseph Conrad conveys his strong disapproval of these colonizers to us most effectively. His purpose is to raise in us the greatest possible contempt for these white colonizers, and herein lies his moral vision.


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