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Heart of Darkness is a story which centers on a sailor who is journeying up the Congo River to meet a man who is reported to have many great abilities. The main sailor takes on a job as a river boat captain through a Belgian company and travels to Africa as he encounters many brutal truths about the company’s local stations.
During his travels he sees that the natives have been taken by the company and forced into service, working too much and being poorly treated by the agents of the company. As he heads out on the ship he encounters cannibals, a dense jungle, and native villages that seem to circle around drums.
This famed, must-read book for high school aged children is one which explores the real hypocrisy that surrounds imperialism. It follows the cruel treatment of locals, the torture, and the near slavery conditions that seem to paint a very bad picture of the imperialist countries. The local agents to the country do not hide the fact that they use violence and intimidation to rule the area. The book also centers upon madness and how closely linked it is to the concept of imperialism. Africa seems to be responsible not just for physical illness to those who dare venture there but also for mental disintegration. The madness spoken of in this story serves to engage sympathy from the reader but it also shows how insanity can be difficult to define within the context of each person it affects. Madness establishes a great deal of social friction between the groups as well. Justifications that are presented are proved to be false and soon harmony breaks down, as each person is taken out of traditional social context and allowed to be responsible for their own actions.
The book focuses on the exploration of moral confusion, hypocrisy, and ambiguity by delving into the choice between two evils. The idealistic main character has to align himself with the malicious colonial powers or the malevolent Kutz. He has to determine how moral standards can be placed into a relevant context when one has to judge evil and how serious situations and mundane situations alike both render profound confusion on a moral level as well as a great deal of hypocrisy. Overall, this book is one which explores many concepts important to imperialism and the colonization of Africa.
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