Essay: Why do we still study Heart of Darkness?
Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. It is still studied today as it is considered an exemplary moral text. It explores complex moral issues which are challenging for contemporary youths and demonstrates the effect that isolation can have on a person. Also, it reveals the nature of colonialism in Africa in the late nineteenth century making it significant from a historical and political perspective. Heart of Darkness is studied for language purposes and because it is simply a good story.
Heart of Darkness is still studied as it is morally educational and this is illustrated by Conrad’s portrayal of Colonialism. Europeans arrived in Africa with the view that they were racially superior and that it was their moral duty to civilise “ignorant millions.” A consequence of colonialism is man’s lust for power and his capacity for evil. The land was devastated by repeated blastings and the natives were referred to as ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’. They were chained to each other, overworked, and starved. Many were left to die like animals. Marlow described the Eldorado Expedition as “sordid buccaneers.” Their only intent was to take the ivory from the land “with no more moral purpose.” Marlow sees the Expedition as a “merry dance of death and trade.” The Europeans justify their ruthless exploitation of the natives with claims of ‘enlightening’ them. However, civilisation has brought ‘darkness’. The denial of the Africans’ traditional lifestyle and culture is a form of racial prejudice. Hence, Heart of Darkness is still studied today as it provides knowledge of the period of colonialism which is perceived as being politically and historically dark. Contemporary society feels moral outrage with the exploitation and racial prejudice the natives were subjected to.
We still study Heart of Darkness because it shows how isolation can change a person and affect their sense of morality. The character...