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Heart Of Darkness Essay Essay, Research Paper

JOSEPH CONRAD’S -Heart Of Darkness

Joseph Conrad?s 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 Marlow?s 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 Company?s management.

In this story Marlow?s 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, ?You forget, dear

Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire? (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, ?You understand it

was a continental concern, that Trading Society; but I have a lot of

relations on the living continent, because it?s cheap and not so nasty

as it looks they say? (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,

?Ever any madness in your family?? (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. Marlow?s theory on why the manager

was in that position was that ?…he was never ill? (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 ?white collar? workers like Marlow who have to live

with their hypocrisy.

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