JOSEPH CONRAD'S -Heart Of Darkness


Joseph Conrad¹s novel Heart of Darkness is about a seaman named 
Charlie Marlow and an experience he had as a younger man. Early in 
the novel it becomes apparent that there is a great deal of tension 
in Marlow¹s mind about whether he should profit from the immoral 
actions of the company he works for which is involved in the ivory 
trade in Africa. Marlow believes that the company is ignorant of the 
tension between moral enlightenment and capitalism . The 
dehumanization of its laborers which is so early apparent to Marlow 
seems to be unknown to other members of the Company¹s management. 
 In this story Marlow¹s aunt represents capitalism. Her efforts to get 
him a job are significant because of the morally compromising nature 
of the work of which she seems totally ignorant. When Marlow expresses 
doubts about the nature of the work, she replies, ³You forget, dear 
Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire² (12). It is clear 
that Marlow has mixed feelings about the whole idea. At one point, 
trying to justify his actions to himself, he says, ³You understand it 
was a continental concern, that Trading Society; but I have a lot of 
relations on the living continent, because it¹s cheap and not so nasty 
as it looks they say² (12). Marlow finally takes the job, however, 
and tells himself that the pain and unusually harsh treatment the 
workers are subjected to is minimal.
 During the tests and the requirements that he has to undergo before 
entering the jungle Marlow feels that he is being treated like a 
freak. The doctor measures his head and asks him questions such as, 
³Ever any madness in your family?² (15). In this part of the story 
Marlow is made to feel small and unimportant. Any feelings or 
concerns that he has are not important to the company, and as a 
result, he feels alone. It is only logical that Marlow would have been 
second guessing his decision and feeling some kinship with the other 
(black) workers who are exploited, but he does not reveal any such 
 Upon reaching his destination in Africa, Marlow finds that things are 
just the same. At the point when he is denied rest after traveling 
twenty miles on foot he sees things are not going to change. Marlow 
then tells of how disease and death are running wild through out the 
area, and the company does nothing in the way of prevention other than 
to promote those who stay alive. Marlow¹s theory on why the manager 
was in that position was that ³...he was never ill² (25). This is a 
bad situation for Marlow because he sees his boss as a simple man with 
little else to offer the company other than to be a mindless foreman 
over the operation. This is an example of the company stripping self 
worth from its workers in the sense that it does not encourage or 
expect input from them. This is all significant because Marlow finds 
himself in a position where he is giving up a big piece of himself and 
his beliefs to make money. 
 The tension between capitalism and moral enlightenment in the first 
twenty pages of this story is evident. Conrad uses Marlow to depict a 
seemingly good-hearted person caught in the middle of the common 
dilemma of moral ethics and desire for monetary success. Marlow knows 
that there is a great deal of repugnance in what he is doing, yet he 
finds himself forced to deal with it in his own personal way, which is 
justify it or ignore it. It is clear that the company also is forced 
to deal with this same issue, but it does it simply by pretending that 
it is not dehumanizing its entire work force. This blindness allows 
the Company to profit and prosper, but only at the expense of the 
lives of the workers in the jungle who have no way to protest or 
escape and the ³white collar² workers like Marlow who have to live 
with their hypocrisy.

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