Heart of Darkness

Oral History, Psychoanalysis, and the Trauma of Imperialism in Heart of Darkness College

Joseph Conrad frames his novella Heart of Darkness as a story told within another story in order to draw attention to and subsequently critique the silence regarding the horrors that characterized nineteenth-century European imperialism—a time period also known as the Scramble for Africa. In order to understand the role imperialism played and continues to play in European expansion, it is important to first analyze its preconditions; most notably, a surplus of capital. Rather than benefiting the economy, the rise of capitalism in Europe actually created a paradoxical economic situation, in which the economy was suffering from an overproduction of capital and a lack of investment opportunities nationwide. These conditions created an unstable economic climate built around speculation and gambling and jeopardized the capitalist system of production. Imperialism provided a solution to this growing instability; capitalist European countries identified a need for expansion into new territories—as capitalism requires growth in order to succeed—which also necessitated the exportation of power, alongside capital. Thus, the Scramble for Africa, as seen in Heart of Darkness, began. It is important to note that the exportation of power in...

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