Heart of Darkness

The Revelation of Societal Values Through Marginalisation in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

It is fair to say, that late 19th Century Europe is not remembered for its progressive and humanistic values. Indeed, European society at this time could probably be described as racist and sexist, with colonialism and 'empire building' national passions throughout the continent, a passion perhaps best expressed by Belgian King Leopold who described the imperialist enterprise as a "crusade worthy of a century of progress". Generally, black people were thought of as a savage type of sub-human, whilst women were generally believed to be second-class citizens, with both groups possessing few rights. Naturally, the literary texts of the time generally reflect this, with 'classics' of Western Literature such as Rudyard Kipling's Kim, for example, essentially racist and pro-colonialist. Joseph Conrad's 1898-99 work Heart of Darkness, however, does purport to dispute some of the dominant values of its society to an extent, through its somewhat dubious anti-colonialist discourse. Despite this, however, Heart of Darkness constructs black Africans and women as being on society's fringes. Whilst it can be argued that this marginalization is unconscious, Conrad nevertheless exhibits racism and sexism...

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