Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness Question Pages 2-6

Marlow says that there is an “idea” that “redeems” the actions of those who are trying to “tackle a darkness”. What is the idea at the center of European imperialism?

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Control and exploitation of people primarily using firearms is at the heart of imperialism. Kurtz is physically quite a weak man, but he maintains enormous sway over the native population through his understanding of their language and his cultural and communication skills. He exploits their appreciation of him as another. Marlow’s men use a much simpler means of gaining authority, namely, firearms. This is the tragedy of imperialism in that the arrival of the white man heralds a new order, but in the creation of that order, they retain the tools and the authority. Black men in this book first appear as members of a chain gang, and they gain little power after that scene.