Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad\'s novel Heart of Darkness
is about a seaman named Charlie Marlow and an experience he had as a younger
man. Early in the novel it becomes apparent that there is a great deal
of tension in Marlow¹s mind about whether he should profit from the
immoral actions of the company he works for which is involved in the ivory
trade in Africa. Marlow believes that the company is ignorant of the tension
between moral enlightenment and capitalism . The dehumanization of its
laborers which is so early apparent to Marlow seems to be unknown to other
members of the Company\'s management.

In this story Marlow\'s aunt represents
capitalism. Her efforts to get him a job are significant because of the
morally compromising nature of the work of which she seems totally ignorant.

When Marlow expresses doubts about the nature of the work, she replies,

"You forget, dear Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire" (12).

It is clear that Marlow has mixed feelings about the whole idea. At one
point, trying to justify his actions to himself, he says, "You understand
it was a continental concern, that Trading Society; but I have a lot of
relations on the living continent, because it\'s cheap and not so nasty
as it looks they say" (12). Marlow finally takes the job, however, and
tells himself that the pain and unusually harsh treatment the workers are
subjected to is minimal.

During the tests and the requirements that
he has to undergo before entering the jungle Marlow feels that he is being
treated like a freak. The doctor measures his head and asks him questions
such as, "Ever any madness in your family?" (15). In this part of the story

Marlow is made to feel small and unimportant. Any feelings or concerns
that he has are not important to the company, and as a result, he feels
alone. It is only logical that Marlow would have been second guessing his
decision and feeling some kinship with the other (black) workers who are
exploited, but he does not reveal any such understanding.

Upon reaching his destination in Africa,

Marlow finds that things are just the same. At the point when he is denied
rest after traveling twenty miles on foot he sees things are not going
to change. Marlow then tells of how disease and death are running wild
through out the area, and the company does nothing in the way of prevention
other than to promote those who stay alive. Marlow\'s theory on why the
manager was in that position was that "...he was never ill" (25). This
is a bad situation for Marlow because he sees his boss as a simple man
with little else to offer the company other than to be a mindless foreman
over the operation. This is an example of the company stripping self worth
from its workers in the sense that it does not encourage or expect input
from them. This is all significant because Marlow finds himself in a position
where he is giving up a big piece of himself and his beliefs to make money.

The tension between capitalism and moral
enlightenment in the first twenty pages of this story is evident. Conrad
uses Marlow to depict a seemingly good-hearted person caught in the middle
of the common dilemma of moral ethics and desire for monetary success.

Marlow knows that there is a great deal of repugnance in what he is doing,
yet he finds himself forced to deal with it in his own personal way, which
is justify it or ignore it. It is clear that the company also is forced
to deal with this same issue, but it does it simply by pretending that
it is not dehumanizing its entire work force. This blindness allows the

Company to profit and prosper, but only at the expense of the lives of
the workers in the jungle who have no way to protest or escape and the"white collar" workers like Marlow who have to live with their hypocrisy.