Feminist Symbolism In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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In the late nineteenth century novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the protagonist often encounters women at notable sights of his life. Charlie Marlow is a sailor and imperialist who starts a journey up the Congo River to ‘civilize’ the ‘savages’. The most famous tale of Joseph Conrad is more than a mere exploration of the harsh realities of the European colonialism in Africa during the 1900s, it is also rich in symbolisms and delivers a rather detrimental portrayal of women. Throughout the story, Marlow seems to undervalue the importance of female interactions within his journey and his judgement is often expounded. He rarely mentions women but when he does, as in the case of his aunt or the mistress of Kurtz, he treats them as though…show more content…
As mentioned above, Marlow who” sets the women to work-to get a job” would have never journeyed to the Congo River if he was not helped by his aunt. While men are the conquerors themselves, women are the symbolic vessels for travel, always referred as feminine and even named (the Nellie), and thus, the nautical term turns out to indicate the role of female within imperialism. In this manner, women become not only influenced by the trade, but contribute to it. Through the senseless support they give to seamen, not only the boats or the aunt, but the whole feminine gender symbolizes imperialism and provoke Marlow’s literal journey. Although Marlow’s obliviously lacks compassion with the women he comes across, Joseph Conrad guarantees many references to imperialist women and their contribution to expansionism, though they have never explored the Africa. While Marlow waits to sign his contract, he observes “two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs. Knitting black wool.” . Many theories can occur to the analogy of the black wool, but it is wise to say they are involved in the imperialist industry. This encounter in the waiting room makes Marlow feel discomfit as they seemed to know. The “starched white affair on her head” seems to represent the light of the European conqueror, whereas the black wool she knits would represent the African savages. Thus, the analogy of knitting black wool and manipulating the Congo, makes Marlow “feel slightly uneasy” on a level that himself can barely acknowledge as he finds the vision ‘troubling and eerie’. One can wonder whether this feeling is the result of a woman’s participation in imperialism or not, yet the way of introducing these two almost witches is significant. It draws one’s attention to the fact that when it comes to deal with women in business, Marlow transform them into abstractions and
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