The Representation of Natives in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Date of Graduation

Spring 1994


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Barbara Turpin


There is ample justification for seeing Heart of Darkness as a racist text. Conrad's world-view is characterized by a stoical aloofness. Thus on a surface level, his vision is unappealing. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow can evoke a wanton consciousness, infected by the spirit of bestial rapine in the Belgian Congo. But once one gets past the stoical restraint of Marlow, and his myopic vision of the natural world, one finds a strangely appealing morality, an appalled vision. Because of Conrad's janiformity, one has to avoid a reductive approach to the text. The text shifts so constantly, that the reader's apprehension is literally dependent on the last words encountered. It is therefore best approached as a dialectal text. Since elements of Conrad's art, and his peculiar hostility to the jungle complicate Marlow's morality, already shrouded in irony, I have undertaken to explain them in Chapters 3 and 4. In Chapter 2, I have considered the views of several critics, whose conflicting apprehensions point to one of the central features of the text--its ambiguity. Contents: Introduction -- Reader-response : basic moves -- The critical handling of race -- Conrad's art in Heart of Darkness. The effects of delayed decoding ; The effects of impressionism -- Conrad's attitude towards nature -- Conclusion.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


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