I recently finished Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I have a few things to say about it.
First though, for those who haven’t read it or forgot the basic storyline....
The story is set on a boat in the late 1800s. Marlow is the main guy and he is telling his four rich ship mates the story of when he did fresh water sailing in the Congo. He got a job with The Company who was concerned with the ivory trade. Marlow is sent to fetch Kurtz an important guy who was known for his methods in ‘dealing’ with the natives. Marlow hears a lot about this Kurtz fellow and when he finally reaches him, Kurtz kicks the bucket. In a nutshell that is the storyline. If you want the actual details go read the freaking book.
I tried reading this 77 page novella several times. Each attempt I would reach page 5 and be so exhausted that I couldn’t continue. However, when I did manage to finish I was really impressed. Ok I know, it’s a classic for a reason and I am a fan of classics and yadda yadda but seriously. I was really baffled by the various standpoints the author took on common issues addressed in modern novels.
Firstly the standpoint on Imperialism is very different to modern novels. Conrad’s resounding thought throughout the book is that imperialism has far reaching negative effects, but his focus was not on the natives but on the Europeans. The maxim, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is fitting. Conrad’s point is that Europeans, without a check, were more detrimental to themselves that to the natives.
This is interesting to me because if I have to read another book about how evil the European people are who came to Africa to exploit the natives are, I will puke. I am sorry that I am white. I am sorry my ancestors were dumb. Let’s stop writing books saying the same thing ... Yes I am talking about you Poisonwood Bible. Colonisation and Imperialism were atrocities.... So it was nice to not read another book about how mean the whites were to the natives. Because we KNOW they were bad and mean people with bad intentions and yadda yadda (brainwash mumbo jumbo)
Second interesting point: The Role of Women. According to most feminists thinkers, Heart of Darkness is novel that degrades women. Surely they have a decent point. Marlow is constantly annoyed at the naiveté of the women he encounters. But when one thinks about it, Marlow himself was just as naive in his dealings with reality, refusing to see things (especially Kurtz) as they were. Even subtle minor characters, like the Russian guy, held this same innocence. Conrad doesn’t dismiss women as silly and out of touch with reality, but people in general, men and women alike.
Sigh. It is nice to read something that doesn’t blatantly address the female gender as the superior gender. Equality is not superiority. So there.
That is my blub about the Heart of Darkness.
Weigh in. What did you think of Heart of Darkness? What are your views regarding the betrayal of Imperialism (or colonialism) and women in novels, both classic and modern?
Lemme have it!
Oh and can I do this more? Or shall I skip the analysis of the books I read next time (unless of course I HAVE to say something. Cuz its my blog and I can make it suck if I want to) But I don’t want to have the suckiest blog in the history of suckiness. So let me know if I should skip to something else next time...
Because I love my readers I will listen to what you want!