Commercial colonization and corporate imperialism are the two main themes that stand out behind all the events of this novel. Marlow and Kurtz both travel to the Congo for business interests. They partake in a rather violent but somehow organize form of extortion and exploitation. They were working for a company that exports ivory from Africa. This company obtains its labor force from the local population through exploitative means. In the process it destroys the ecosystem.
The European colonizers claimed to be educating the natives, and to bring them a new religion and a better way of life. However, their aim was to remain in order to starve, murder and mutilate the local population for their own gain. Marlow condemns this kind of imperialism in the narrative. But nevertheless, it remains the motivating factor behind his mission, following Kurtz, deep into the forest and into moral turmoil. This discrepancy between action and belief is very close to hypocrisy and is clearly visible in most of the characters employed by the company including Marlow and Kurtz.
Hypocrisy is a very strong and visible topic in Heart of Darkness. Marlow's narration constantly highlights the total lack of correspondence between the company's pomposity about educating the locals with its real agenda of extracting minerals, ivory and other precious goods. Further analysis into the topic of hypocrisy and internal guilt to Kurtz, we only need to pay attention to the notebook entry that Marlow discovered. In that notebook, Kurtz laid down his longing to help the native Africans achieve improved conditions. He concluded his journal by scrawling a statement across the page. The statement read, Exterminate the brutes (Lindqyvist, 1992). It is clear that Kurtz desires to help prevent the destruction the company's project is causing. On the other hand, it is also clear that he wants to exterminate the local population. This split in Kurtz is shown in the gap between the company's set targets in Africa and the actual manner in which it treats the population.
In the end, the book's view on imperialism is evidently negative and in a strong manner. It condemns the men operating the company based in Belgium and its agents who were working in Africa. Even though Marlow cannot be pulled out from his role being the company's employee, his opinion is that the company is carrying out inhuman acts in Africa. He is also antagonistic to the concept of commercial colonialism and the greater imperialist projects. Taking the role of both a narrator and a character, Marlow sets himself apart from the deeds and the culture that he bears witness to. He does not believe in the company's ideals, and neither does he believe in its imperialistic tendencies.
There are a number of additional themes that come out in the novel. There is loneliness and alienation. This is whereby Marlow, Fresleven, the Russian and Kurtz all experience the ills of prolonged isolation. The chaotic ivory trade is compared side by side with the impression of order given by the administration officials. Finally the obligation of meeting one's roles is more often given priority by the ivory workers. And this occurs at the expense of the ethics of that task.
In modern times, imperialism still exists in many forms. Neocolonialism is evident even to date. It is the use of capitalism, cultural imperialism and business globalization to gain influence over a particular nation. It is usually practiced on a geopolitical scale. Furthermore, it happens in the place of direct military control or as a hegemony. An example is whereby former colonies of European countries have adopted most systems and standards of their former colonial masters. All former colonies of Britain use British standards of education, measurement and administration. English has been adopted in these countries as the Lingua Franca, used in all formal communications by governments and institutions.
The colonizers were able to extract numerous resources from Africa and took them back to their countries. This enabled them to become very wealthy. They were able to innovate and establish industries as they oppressed Africans as laborers. For this reason, they developed superior goods that the Africans could not produce. The end result was that Africans became the producers of raw materials. Currently, the phenomenon still happens and most African economies obtain a big percentage of their GDP from the export of raw materials.
Foreign aid to third-world countries is mostly a gimmick. Most of the foreign aid is in form of loans that are to be paid back with interest. This further puts third-world countries deeper into debt, and the best way to control a person is to put him or her into debt. Developed countries impose unfair trade practices on developing countries. First-world countries implement very strict laws on the standards required on the goods they import from poor countries. On the other hand, they dump their low-quality products in poor countries.
A common saying is that foreign aid is dead aid. This is because even if the developed countries give grants and donations to poorer countries, the money in most cases has strings attached. They use the donations as a means to influence various policies in developing countries. This can be on issues such as governance or cultural practices. Some developed countries have been known to sponsor warlords to create chaos in Developing countries. These lords carry out heinous crimes against the local populations. Meanwhile, the developed countries extract mineral resources and export them to their home countries. In so doing they rob the poor country of its natural capital and cause untold suffering to the populace (Nafziger, 2003).
Lindqvist, Sven, and Joan Tate. Exterminate all the Brutes: One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide. 1992.
Nafziger, E. Wayne, and Juha Auvinen. Economic Development, Inequality, and War: Humanitarian Emergencies in Developing Countries. Springer, 2003.
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