Books and Movies Reviews

The Bearer of the Shield

Set in the Belgian colony of the Congo, Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness centers upon European colonial activities. On the surface, the protagonist Marlow seems to denounce the hypocrisy within imperialism. He lashes out against imperialism's inherent cruelty towards Africans and also subtlety hints at imperialism's fall by alluding to the sense of revenge within the African jungle. However, these condemnations of imperialism do not necessarily label Marlow as an anti-imperialist. In fact, Marlow's actions manifest his support of imperialism.
The tendency to glorify imperialism already exists in Marlow before he experiences imperialismfirst hand. When Marlow recalls his impression of seeing the Company map depicting colonial powers in Africa, he says, "There was a vast amount of red – good to see at any time…" (110). Seeing the great extent to which British colonies, represented by the stretch of red, occupy Africa pleases Marlow. He proudly exalts the fact that British territory exists not just confined to Europe but also all the way out to the African continent, a range of impressive territory that extends Britain's overall power. By emphasizing how British territorial expansion leads to national prestige, Marlow praises imperialism and acts as yet another European votary of imperialism.
During his actual experience in the Congo, Marlow also commends imperialism's contribution to enhancing civilization.To describe his African fireman, Marlow says "…to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat….he was useful because he had been instructed…" (140). As if he were training a dog, Marlow insists that education uplifts the primitive African to a useful human being. By reasoning how the benefits of European interference in Africa allow the natives to escape from a savage-like state, Marlow shows his imperialistic …

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