Post Colonial Analysis of Heart of Darkness-Joseph Conrad
Using the Tools of Allegory, Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ can be read from a Postcolonial perspective. As a 21st Century Responder; the structure of the Novella , a story presented within another story, allows one to see the way colonisation and imperialism effected all who were involved. Conrad uses symbolism frequently throughout the book; some examples of this can be the use of references to the Romans, Buddha and the Thames. The reference to the Romans could be read using the allegorical tool of foreshadowing as well as using symbolism.
The Roman Empire was, at one point, the most powerful civilisation on earth. In the end, the super power which was the Roman Empire fell through the disintegration of political, military, economic and social institution-a societal collapse. As a 21st Century responder, it can be seen that the British Empire is not as powerful as it once was, it too, like the Roman Empire spread and declined. Conrad seemed to be foreshadowing the enterprise which was colonisation, referring to the mistakes of the Roman Empire and linking them to the same actions by the British, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Karl Marx. In the first section of the Novella, Marlow is described as a Buddha: “He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. ” “We felt meditative …”  The definition of Ascetic is “Characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. ” Buddha is seen to provide teaching and enlightenment, he is the “Awakened One” or the “Enlightened One”.
By using this symbolism at the start of the Novella, Marlow is described as the person who will teach and enlighten through the retelling of his experience. Marlow seems to be a typical European but still doesn’t seem to belong to a distinct class. In this way, he is more relatable than the other characters. Joseph Conrad was not a born British-theoretically, he is less likely to gloss over the truth to protect his country because he is less inclined to be patriotic. The reference to the Thames could represent civilisation.
The Thames is the river which runs right through London and is the longest river in England-the most powerful and civilised place of the time. The Thames could be seen to have a juxtaposing effect when compared to the Congo River. The Thames runs through the most civilised place in the world whereas the Congo runs through a wild and untamed place where savages live. ” ‘And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth. ‘ ” In this quote, Marlow is pointing out that at one point, England was seen as the untamed place full of savages.
After his experience; Marlow sees the savages as human, by connecting the widely publicised savagery of the Congo with the hypothetical savagery of a past England. The way in which resources were wasted is an issue which is frequently mentioned by Marlow. “I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty nails. ” “The cliff was not it the way of anything; but this objectless blasting was all the work going on. ” Colonialism seems to centre around greed and getting more resources to further the colonialists economic and military assets.
By reading about how workers are being used to achieve nothing, valuable explosives are being used for no reason and potentially useful machinery is being wasted and not utilised to their full potential. Colonialism was viewed, from the outside, as being a worthwhile venture while in reality, is a waste of time and resources until there is proper organisation and management. This waste of resources links to one of the large components in colonialism-Greed. Greed is one of the main points outlined in this Novella and is presented in several different ways.
One such way greed is presented is through it being personified through Kurtz. Kurtz is the character who let his greed get to him. The way he treated everybody, the way he acted and the results he got were all for personal gain in some way. Kurtz was legendary to those who had heard of him, the man who got the most ivory. Of course, if someone is satisfying everyone’s greed, that person will be well renowned and much loved. Kurtz embodies European Imperialism but also is set as a victim of colonisation-he loses his sanity and his life. Amanda G