Heart Of Darkness

Heart Of Darkness

Whether a reader connects to the symbolism
of Heart Of Darkness or is merely reading it for fun, one cannot go away
from this story without a lingering feeling of uneasiness. Joseph Conrad
writes what seems to be a simple story about a man in search of an ivory
hunter; one must look deeper into the jungle which makes up the core of

Heart Of Darkness , where Conrad hides the meanings and symbolisms that
shape this story.

Conrad has been accused of being a racist
because of the way he portrays the natives in this story. It is a controversy
that continues even today. It can be argued that because of the way he
depicts the natives, they cannot be an essential part of Heart of Darkness.

However, if one reads between the lines it is obvious the story would not
be shaped the way it was if the natives were not involved. The natives
in a sense, create Kurtz. They are his "people" and his followers:

Suddenly round the corner of the house
a group of men appeared, as though they had come up from the ground. They
waded waist-deep in the grass in a compact body bearing an improvised stretcher
in their midst. Instantly in the emptiness of the landscape a cry arose
whose shrillness pierced the still air...And is if by enchantment streams
of human beings - of naked human beings - with spears in their hands, with
bows, with shields, with wild glances and savage movements, were poured
into the clearing by the dark-faced and pensive forest.(58-59)

The first time Marlow meets Kurtz is in
this scene. It shows Kurtz not only depends on the natives for physical
support but also for protection. Conrad\'s portrayal of the natives as "human
beings with wild glances and savage movements" is ironic because Conrad
does not think they have the right to be put on the same level as the white
man even though Kurtz could not exist without them. The natives are Kurtz’s
followers and worship him like a god and yet they are seen as only a part
of the jungle that is "dark" and "undiscovered".

One scene in Heart Of Darkness which unquestionably
shows the lack of respect the natives are given is when Marlow is at the

Company Station on his way to the Congo. He describes the natives as "ants"
which are decomposers. Marlow is describing the natives as creatures that
do nothing but break down and destroy the land. When Marlow tries to get
away from this scene of natives he steps "into a gloomy circle of some

Inferno...Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against
the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within
the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair...They
were dying slowly...they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows
of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom." (20)

Marlow characterizes the natives as "unearthly creatures" that have been
abandoned from society. It has been accepted that they do not deserve to
live like regular human beings. They must live in "abandonment and despair"
because they are criminals. Marlow depicts them as slowly rising out of
the earth as if they were horrid creatures that only come out in the darkness
because no one can bear to see them in the daytime. Marlow also describes
the natives as "bundles of acute angles sat with their legs drawn up...one
of these creatures rose to his hands and knees and went off on all-fours
towards the river to drink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat up in the
sunlight crossing his shins in front of him, and after a time let his woolly
head fall on his breastbone." (21) This is utter degradation of a human
being. At this point, one does not even see the natives as human anymore.

They have been described not only as acute angles but as dogs that lap
up their water on all fours. How more degrading can one be to a race of

The one distinguishable native in Heart

Of Darkness is the helmsman. Although, he is not important enough to be
given a name, he is given a title which is a step above his comrades. He
is "an athletic black belonging to some coast tribe...He sported a pair of
brass earrings, wore a blue cloth wrapper from the waist to the ankle,
and thought all the world of himself. He was the most unstable kind of
fool I had ever seen." (45) Marlow’s first impression of his helmsman