Rudyard Kipling: Poems

Discuss Conrad’s attitude toward British imperialism, paying particular attention to the way Conrad plays with images of light vs. darkness and civilization vs. savagery. What exactly does Conrad think is the problem with imperialism? What is the “horror”

In the poem “The White Man’s Burden”, Rudyard Kipling portrays the idea that Europe and America had an obligation to shine the “light” of civilization into the “darkness” of “savage” places like Africa. Most scholars see Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness as a critique of this imperialist project. Discuss Conrad’s attitude toward British imperialism, paying particular attention to the way Conrad plays with images of light vs. darkness and civilization vs. savagery. What exactly does Conrad think is the problem with imperialism? What is the “horror” that the character Kurtz refers to with his dying breath? Be sure to cite specific passages from the text that support your interpretation. Once you have a clear understanding of the text, you can move on to evaluation and application. For example, you may wish to discuss ways that Conrad’s novel expresses racist attitudes that might undercut his attempted critique of imperialism. In other words, you may wish to discuss how Conrad is an example of Edward Said’s concept of “orientalism”. Or you may wish to discuss other examples of orientalism you see in today’s culture.

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