How Conrad`s Critique of Empire is shaped by Imperialist Thinking


How Conrad’s Critique of Empire is shaped by Imperialist Thinking

How Conrad’s Critique is shaped by Imperialist Thinking

In the openingpassages of the “The Heart of Darkness”, Conrad describes theancient Britain to be the place of darkness at the end of world. Toimagine Britain through Roman conquerors’ eyes, Conrad envisionsbanks, forests, marshes, and savages’ landscape with little to eatfit for man who is civilized. With such a view, Europe is located atthe periphery of the world map whose central position is elsewhere.This is thus a gesture that questions Europe’s representation ofthe African continent as a remote place and a savage that requirescivilization. If this passage from the “The Heart of Darkness”inaugurates the critique of imperialism, then other sections from thenovel suggest that Conrad view of the entire world throughcolonizer’s eyes. But how was Conrad’s critique of the empire initself curved or shaped by the imperialist thing?

First,imperialist thinking shapes Conrad’s critique in that, imperialistsemphasizes on the relationship between individuals and delineation ofethical, libidinal, domestic, and dimensions of the empire’sdevelopment, especially in the modern world (Hawkins, 1979, p. 290).Based on this, Conrad’s critique is shaped on his commentary of themodern world. This was, there is affirmation glimpse that remains.The critique is shaped by imperialist rejection of strong faith andunwavering idealism, which confirms Conrad’s affirmation ofcontingency ethics that averts nihilism. The imperialist thinkingshapes the approaches relationship between, colonialism and Conradfor example, to be less ambivalent but more critical of thecolonialism view. Shaped by imperialist thinking, Hawkins (1979, p.289) investigates for of Conrad’s critical moments.

Conrad momentsare: when Conrad’s work was submitted after publishing Conrad’scanonization Conrad’s reputation during 1960s’ turmoil and thepresent moment. All these four moments were shaped by the imperialistthinking, which triggered a lengthy discussion on the literaryevolution theory of the world. In the “Heart of Darkness”,Conrad’s critique of the empire was based on two main criteria:“Efficiency” and “Idea”, which she uses to criticize theimperialism. However, from Conrad’s critique, the manner in whichhe presented his critique was on both the internal and externalevidences that revealed values of the world (Hawkins, 1979, p. 289).Nevertheless, his critique was widely embraced in Europe at the timeand it was suited to condemning the kind of imperialism that washappening in Congo.

SocialDarwinism, which was part of the imperialist thinking, influencedConrad’s value of efficiency critique. The imperialist thinkingensured that the fittest could survive. The introduction of “socialevolution” by imperialist shaped Conrad’s thoughts by introducing“external social Darwinism”, which accepted imperialism since itwas meant for the quality of social efficiency that pitted peopleagainst each other (Hawkins, 1979, p. 295). Influence on Conrad’scritique saw imperialism as a phenomenon, which was essentially equalin all the areas. This varied only based on subjective factors suchas benevolence and culture.

Finally, thevalue which is represented by an “idea”, is more difficult tofigure out since Conrad himself, had not seen its influence from theimperialist thoughts. When one remains within Conrad’s single text,it is then evident that Marlow referred not to the identification ofan individual’s member of a certain society, but rather to what heinfluenced within imperialist context. The imperialist thinking iswhat had initially attracted Conrad since the thoughts had come whileequipped with some moral ideas of some sort (Hawkins, 1979, p. 296).Conrad’s critique of the empire had also in turn revealed his imageof Africa to be a function further that Europe’s imagination. Hisimage was influenced to a point that he views it as an appeal ofEurope’s humanitarian idealism. His critique also sets up theAfrica image to be an object of civilization.


Hawkins, H. (1979). Conrad`s Critique of Imperialism in Heart ofDarkness. PMLA Publication, 94, 2, 286-299. Retrieved from–37DV8bgKWxPW78LJEwLw