Savagery In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness employs a frame narrative to depict Charlie Marlow’s experiences in the Belgian Congo in the late nineteenth century. Marlow, the primary narrator of the story and an avid explorer, is fascinated with maps and exploring the world and the unknown, which eventually leads him on an imperialist mission to the Belgian controlled Congo. Here, the advanced and “civilized” European culture clashes with the “primitive” native society, generating widespread corruption and inhumane treatment of the Africans. Marlow’s response to this savagery that is the cultural collision between the Europeans and the natives is much more than just shock and horror; he is transformed by his experiences, progressing through the superego,…show more content…
Embracing the ego, Marlow is only concerned with realistically satisfying his id’s desires, namely trying to meet Kurtz. This transition is first apparent in Marlow’s interactions with the cannibals on the boat. He considers them to be “fine fellows” as “they did not eat each other before [his] face” (75). At this moment, it is evident that Marlow’s moral standards have diminished as he now considers the primitive cannibals to be of the same stature as their civilized European counterparts. Thus, in trying to accomplish his mission of meeting Kurtz, Marlow will even support cannibals as long as they help him to achieve this goal. Furthermore, in describing the cannibals as “fine fellows,” he equates them to the imperialists, revealing how these “primitive” natives are not much different than the “civilized” Europeans. Thus, Marlow’s reaction to the cannibals reveals the barbaristic aspects of both the natives and the imperialists, as both are savages but the European’s barbarity is hidden by civilization and a “developed” culture. Another transition in Marlow’s personality occurs when the boat is attacked by the natives on the dark, foggy river. After the attack and as the fog alleviates, Marlow realizes that “exactly what [he] had been looking forward to” was “a talk with Kurtz” (89).…show more content…
At the deepest point in the jungle, civilization’s facade is no longer, and the evil that lies within the id is free to rule. At Kurtz’ station, Marlow observes some ornamental knobs in the distance, which end up being “heads on the stakes” with “their faces . . . turned to the house” (102). The heads on the stakes reveal the true barbarism that exists in the absence of civilized society. However, Marlow’s reaction to the heads and how he “was not so shocked as you may think” (102), conveys how he himself has become somewhat savage, as even the brutish display of the heads do not faze him. Therefore, in the pursuit of his id and meeting Kurtz, Marlow will do anything to meet him and uphold Kurtz’s reputation, even ignoring Kurtz’s clearly evil and immoral actions. Similarly, this evil can be observed in how the natives worship Kurtz as a sort of god. This belief among the natives is only made possible by Kurtz’s “lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts” (102). In the absence of civilization and structured society, Kurtz is free to pursue all of his own desires, regardless of the savage methods required or the ensuing consequences. Thus, when the superego and ego have been stripped in the heart of the jungle, only the id and evil are left to reign free and
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