The Rational Mask: Civilization and Savagery in "Heart of Darkness" Analytical Essay by jpgaltmill

The Rational Mask: Civilization and Savagery in "Heart of Darkness"
An analysis of Marlow's discovery of European civilization in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".
# 153861 | 1,702 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2014 | US

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The paper discusses Joseph Conrad's contrast between civilized man and the savage natives in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". The paper analyzes Philip Marlow's realization that "civilization" is not some inherent moral improvement over the past, but is instead a thin, deceptive layer rational ideals and rules that covers the dark, violent savagery underneath.

From the Paper:

""But darkness was here yesterday," says Marlow, speaking at the mouth of the Thames in England (6). At that time England was the world's super power: her empire stretched across the globe so that the sun was always shining on some piece of it. England was the brilliant example of 19th century civilization: orderly, rational, powerful. Making the world a better place by shining a light in the darkness, by raising up the native peoples of the world so that they too could be almost as orderly and rational. And yet, darkness was in England only a short time ago.
"Marlow is an Englishman, but as a young man he signed on to captain a Belgian riverboat in the Congo. While England may have been the apex of European civilization, Belgium was a European power as well, and so still could carry the torch of civilization into the dark corners of the earth. Marlow, in fact, would come to consider the Congo the heart of this darkness that stands in contrast to civilization. And what is the darkness? Darkness is where reason cannot survive: it is the incomprehensible, the instinctual; it is greed, lust, and the will to power unchecked by rules or order; it is theft without guilt, violence without plan, pillage without apology. It is nature red in tooth and claw, and existence without any god to hold together the chaos."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Planet PDF, 2002. Digital File.
  • O'Hanlon, Redmond. Joseph Conrad and Charles Darwin: The Influence of Scientific Thought on Conrad's Fiction. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities, 1984. Accessed on 3/26/14.

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