This kind of dehumanization is harder to identify than colonial violence or open racism.While Heart of Darkness offers a powerful condemnation of the hypocritical operations of imperialism, it also presents a set of issues surrounding race that is ultimately troubling.
He also nearly falls into a random hole in the ground that slave laborers dug.
Marlow speculates that the hole has no purpose other than to occupy the slaves: “It might have been connected with the philanthropic desire of giving the criminals something to do.” As with the examples of the warship and the grass hut, the grossly inefficient labor practices at the Company Station suggest the pointlessness of the European mission in Africa.
Despite the filth and chaos that reigns at the station, the accountant maintains an immaculately clean suit and perfectly coiffed hair.
Marlow respects the man for maintaining a semblance of civility even in the wilderness.
At the very least, the incidental scenery of the book offers a harsh picture of colonial enterprise.
The impetus behind Marlow’s adventures, too, has to do with the hypocrisy inherent in the rhetoric used to justify imperialism.Thus, both Marlow and the reader begin to sympathize with Kurtz and view the Company with suspicion.Madness also functions to establish the necessity of social fictions.It explodes the idea of the proverbial choice between the lesser of two evils.As the idealistic Marlow is forced to align himself with either the hypocritical and malicious colonial bureaucracy or the openly malevolent, rule-defying Kurtz, it becomes increasingly clear that to try to judge either alternative is an act of folly: how can moral standards or social values be relevant in judging evil?The men who work for the Company describe what they do as “trade,” and their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of “civilization.” Kurtz, on the other hand, is open about the fact that he does not trade but rather takes ivory by force, and he describes his own treatment of the natives with the words “suppression” and “extermination”: he does not hide the fact that he rules through violence and intimidation.His perverse honesty leads to his downfall, as his success threatens to expose the evil practices behind European activity in Africa.Africans become for Marlow a mere backdrop, a human screen against which he can play out his philosophical and existential struggles.Their existence and their exoticism enable his self-contemplation.Heart of Darkness explores the issues surrounding imperialism in complicated ways.As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally up the river to the Inner Station, he encounters scenes of torture, cruelty, and near-slavery.