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The novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a very powerful piece of writing that discusses the importance of human society and its good and bad affects on men. This novel took place in two very different places the so-called “civilized London” and the “uncivilized Africa” which had conflicting cultures. Joseph Conrad illustrates through his intense novel that although one may claim to be in a “civilized” society but when compared to a different culture they may be at the same level of civilization or as “uncivilized” as the other culture may be. There is no one clear definition of what a civilized society is but there is a clear definition on the effects that the society has on its men. Society greatly reflects on the lives of the man because it plays a major role in leading their lives towards a specific direction. This may range from either end, towards wealth or poverty, towards life or death. It is all based on the society in which the man is constantly exposed to and affected by. Civilization lacks innocence, which strips people of their humanity.

According to Joseph Conrad human society should aid the man in pursuing the right direction during the course of life which is consequently derived upon the idea that the man shapes society, but in this book it discusses the vice versa where society shapes the man. “[Marlow] was the only man of us who still ‘followed the sea.’ The worst that could be said of him is that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may express so a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them-the ship; and so is their country their sea”. Marlow was used in a symbolic manner to illustrate that not all men have to be a successful business man or a leader in order to have influences upon his society, he could be a wanderer and know more about society and what it can do to one. Marlow himself was the symbol of humanity when he had fallen into the trap set up by society but he was able to walk out and get back up but he was largely affected. Even though he was physically sick and needed recovery, at the very end of Marlow’s journey he claimed, “It was not my strength that wanted nursing, it was my imagination that wanted soothing.” which occurred after Kurtz’s death. Marlow saw the inhumanity of society and what is done to its followers and rebels.

Joseph Conrad makes good use of his characters to tell his story. The character that we saw the comparison of the African culture and the culture of London as illustrated through the storyteller a journeyman, a wanderer, named Marlow. Marlow was the person who spun his yarn of the clash between two cultures. The culture of the whites in London was sent to explore Africa in order to expand their trades and riches. The natives regarded these white men as god and instead of being equally treated these white men showed them their inhumanity. They enslaved these natives and made them their laborers and stripped them of their freedom. These white men were cruel and very harsh to these people of a different culture where they regarded the natives as though they were “savages” when compared to their so-called “civilized” society. The natives were chained up and forced to go to work by these heartless whites in their own society, their home. “Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps… [Marlow] could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bright swung between them, rhythmically clinking… [They resembled the] deathlike indifference of unhappy savages.” The people that are shaping their society were “these… strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men-men.” The white men shaped these natives’ life and society, this was the bad that happened to the lives of the natives. They were so na ve in the way they saw the white men. Although they praised these white men, the white men took advantage of them and enslaved and made them a part of their evil schemes of self-prosperity. “Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest.” The white men saw the natives’ weakness and they made them all workers/slaves of their company, influenced by the cruelties of their corrupted society.

Joseph Conrad illustrated the bad of the society of the white men who came from London in a way that although they were “civilized” in their own eyes, when compared to the society of the natives of Africa they seemed uncivilized. The white men were corrupted in the sense that they all were forced to and molded by the evil ways of their so-called civilized society. They had to become the way they are in order to survive and prosper in their complicated society or else there’s no way that they themselves would be able to survive. Mr. Kurtz was the character that Conrad used to illustrate how society has such powerful influences on its men. “He was a first class agent, ‘[he] is a very remarkable person.’ Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at ‘the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the other put together ‘(p.85-86). Kurtz was the top-notch wealthiest man in the novel, yet he was trapped and dehumanized by his good society. He worked for a very prosperous ivory trading company, where the manager of the company is the villain of this whole novel. The Manager is responsible for all the mishaps that could have been avoided during Marlow’s trip to Africa and also for Kurtz’s illness and death at the very end. The Manager is in many aspects an obedient servant of society. He followed every rule that the civilized society set forth and so became inhumane, greedy, and the controller of the faith of his workers. But when compared to Kurtz, Kurtz was the total opposite of him. He was the rule breaker of his society which many of the consequences he faced were predestined. Although Kurtz was noted for his high amount of ivory he retrieved his wealth through theft and “he raided the country.” Yet, he has an undying longing for these cruelties and inhumanities to stop which earned him the respect of the natives where “[he] got the tribe to follow him.” Mr. Kurtz corrupted and dehumanized by his society, broke rules in order to prosper which at the end left him nothing but a weary brain that longed for nothing but a way out. Trapped and unsuccessful, he was destined to his last path, the path to his death. Kurtz’s last words “The horror! The horror!” symbolizes his views of his life, shattered and without any doubt how his society lead him towards a path of wealth, inhumanity, and death which Conrad illustrated through Kurtz the corruption of a civilized society. Human society portrayed by Conrad can destroy them when rules are broken whereas if they were followed it causes inhumanity. Society shapes the men where the belief that men shapes society is proven by Conrad to be false.

Although in Africa’s appearance it may seem to be uncivilized, their naiveness shows a form of civilization that people of London would never be able to grasp. They have a type of purity that sets them apart from others. Even if London is civilized, that is seen through the eyes of its beholders, whereas the natives could have viewed themselves as civilized human beings, it all depends on how one sees things in a larger picture. Joseph Conrad had successfully illustrated to us that although one claims to be a good and civilized society that will influence its people in the right direction; it is nearly impossible because the more civilized a society is, the more inhumane it will become for the simple fact of intense corruption and stripping away of the innocence that a place like Africa and its people contain. Through Marlow we see that Africa may be uncivilized and na ve but they possess a quality that most of the civilized societies do not have “innocence” where the beauty of this impenetrable thing is unexplored and beautiful to the ones that have been stripped of it where the innocence lies in the heart and is possessed by the natives who live in the Heart of Darkness, the land of impenetrable innocence, Africa.

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