Exploring the Horror of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Exploring the Horror of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
?The horror, the horror!? Kurtz exclaims prior to his last breath of life on earth. In those final moments, Kurtz was able to say something so true about the whole mess of human life. A life dominated by the fittest, perceived differently through each human eye, and full of judgement lacking understanding of all sides. The various ways the world is viewed causes many problems amongst its people. Whether they are about racism, wealth, or even common sense, conflicts are still subject to arouse. Why? The answer to this is not yet clear because of its complexity and endless variables. Yet what is clear is that it ties into two other aspects-prejudice and social Darwinism or survival of the fittest. Perception is the seed from which those two aspects grow.
Throughout `Heart of Darkness?, its readers are given a taste of the many different perceptions belonging to the characters. As the Belgian doctor examines Marlow before his long journey to the Congo, he questions Marlow of his sanity and predicts the trip will have an effect on him mentally. Marlow eventually becomes insane to some of the readers, while the others argue the opposite. Depending on how Marlow?s actions were perceived determined their overall view of him. Racism was also argued through Marlow?s actions. A shade of skin seemed to somehow be viewed as a factor that determined a person or that person?s individual rank in a sense. It was as though Marlow always looked down at the dark colored Africans and preferred to communicate only with whites of his own ?kind.? For instance at the beginning of the novella, Marlow finds a group of Native Africans chained together. Afraid, he was very relieved once he saw amongst them white man, their leader, and took to talking with him. This could be of mere coincidence, but then again, it all depends. The reason behind the trip to the Congo is given a different purpose by each of the characters. Marlow?s aunt views it as a missionary to civilize its people and possibly become followers of her belief in Christianity. Marlow on the other hand, sees in it the opportunity of the occupation of his dreams and a chance to meet the mysteriously fascinating Kurtz. Most of these views, however, are judgements of situations out of fear and misunderstanding.

The most commonly made mistake throughout the world in past and present is prejudice. Judging without the true understanding of all aspects of a situation has caused entire civilizations to collapse. People will do incredibly stupid things when they are scared and uneducated about others. During the trip upriver to meet Kurtz, the Pilgrims are extremely fearful of the alleged ?cannibals?, because of their skin tone, appearance and little understanding of them. These Cannibals were overworked, poorly fed and generally distrusted or disregarded by the pilgrims. After getting to know the Cannibals, Marlow began to view them in a different way and eventually grew closer with them then he did with the pilgrims. The Natives were seldom referred to in human terms, and usually described as though they were animals. A possibility for this is their ?different? appearance in comparison to a typical European and their ways of life in the jungle. Yet physical appearance should not represent a group of people, and referring to the natives as animals degrades them of their rights to be considered human. Kurtz?s involvement with the natives is frowned upon by most of the Europeans. After careful analyzing, Marlow was capable of finding many positive aspects regarding Kurtz?s ruling and joining of the native tribe. Kurtz represented the white man, with the ability to look beyond physical appearance as a reason to rate an individual. Prejudice also plays a role on who dominates in society.

Similar to the animal kingdom, it is always the fittest that survives in the human kingdom. The wealthy overrule the poor and the wise live better than the naïve. Some factors however may affect one?s ability to reach the top of the social rank system. Being of the African race almost automatically degrades one to the level of an animal. No matter how wise and skillful one could be, race is what matters and helps determine their level. The Whites, aided by their advanced way of civilized living, rule over the Africans. They treat them as animals, commanding them do all the hard work that they themselves are not willing to do such as gathering the ivory. In return the Whites sell the ivory, increasing in their wealth while the Blacks are paid in worthless brass wire, thus continuing their lives in poverty and malnutrition, leading to their early fate. On the long voyages aboard the ship, the stronger are more capable of enduring the hardships and struggles of the sea life. The weak eventually can?t take it any longer and grow sick. Sickness thus leads to their doom. Human life can truly be unfair and difficult.

?The heart of Darkness? has a deeper meaning about life and how humans react with it. Perception causes human beings to view things differently from one another, which leads to misunderstandings and unnecessary quarreling. Misunderstandings mixed in with fear of the unknown cause prejudice to arouse and people to disregard and treat others with disrespect and inequality. The inequality of people in society is marked by Social Darwinism, in which only the fittest and most accepted survive, leaving no possibility for those who are different to thrive. The darkness of the world is truly a deeper shade of black containing the fears, nightmares, and misunderstandings of its people. A never-ending pathway is thus created for inequality amongst people who should be working side by side, forgetting their differences, and helping to make the world a better place.

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