Heart of Darkness was
published in last years of 19th century and is considered one of the
greatest works of English Literature. But, there are many other views on this
novella, where critics found this to be a racist as well as stereotypical for
women. Conrad used oblique narration where, the story starts with Marlow’s
search for the ivory-trader Mr. Kurtz in African jungle followed by Mr. Kurtz narrative
and then back to the main protagonist Marlow. Marlow is highly
symbolical. Charlie Marlow portrays compassion, values and curiosity. Marlow
from the novella also sounds obsessive and hypocritical. On the other side, Mr.
Kurtz is charismatic and ambitious as well as greedy. Many themes are going throughout
Conrad’s novella like good vs evil, race, environment, time, masculinity, femininity,
exploration and so on. Conrad’s rich use of words makes point of views clear at
every narration and power of language is well used. The novella end with encounter
of Kurtz and Marlow which was the ‘Heart of Darkness’
The stereotypical representation of
the women was there in the Conrad’s novel. Masculinity shows in the novella differs
from women and shows the evidence of supporting this stereotype. The stereotype
shown in the novella is like those which was their present in 19th
century life. Regardless of giving an enlightening profile of the indecencies
of nineteenth century European government and also a provocative investigation
of the charm of good corruption, Conrad in his story of the Congo seems
neglectful of feminism. Conrad’s portray women simple beings in present of
males make it sexist text. In one of the starting pages, ‘It’s queer how out of
touch with truth women are’1. These
lines from Marlow depicts the approach towards a women’s mentality by men. Marlow’s
thought that women are out of touch from the realistic world is horrifying and
sounds like they are the only beings who are not coping up with time. Marlow
has no female in his life apart rom his aunt, whom he just respect but there’s
no regard for her intellect.
The text also stereotypical because
there’s no voice to any female character despite being less, where male
characters are having a full influence over the world. Marlow’s aunt assisting
him about any thing don’t have any specific mention or Marlow showing thankfulness
to her. Marlow is a character that focus towards the appearance of every woman
he met and not their intelligence. ‘And from right to left along the lighted
shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of women’2 Marlow said
this about an African woman, calling her apparition supports the stereotypes 19th
men had regarding women. Defining women according to their looks, shows the
lack of respect they had for them. “She was savage and superb, wild-eye and magnificent;”3 admiring
her looks but calling her ‘savage’ due to her skin tone was both racist and sexist.
‘Beauty lies in the eyes of beholder’ is a powerful proverb but not for any
worth in case of Marlow. No matter how beautiful any woman is but if her skin
tone is dusky or dark she is not for anyone. These stereotypes are there for
women only in this whole novella. Uncultured and backward is how Marlow see
every woman who’s not white, and not given any level of equality by Marlow. Kurtz
Intended was also don’t have any name like Marlow’s Aunt clearing that this is
the world of men and women are worthless, and Kurtz give no regards to her for
contributing in his life. Conrad’s giving no value to women in the novella
makes it a real stereotype.
“They—the women, I mean—are out of it—should be out of
is another line where they don’t want to indulge women in anything. Even Aunt Marlow
and Kurtz Intended both are just mere soulless characters. Marlow respect everyone,
even things on his ship not woman but, as the only feminine name present in the
whole novella is on his ship, the Nellie which respects as the ship supports his
life but not to Aunt who must be there from his childhood, and same for Kurtz,
who doesn’t want his fiancée to have an identity. Marlow doesn’t have any
regard for Kurtz Intended nor ‘wild’ neither ‘savage’ also supports the statement
that Marlow is also being stereotypical to colour of African women.
tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to
work – to get a job! Heavens!’5 shows how Marlow feel ashamed of himself by asking woman for help.
Conrad’s complete characterisation of Marlow reveals his ideology and belief.
The whole novella from the start till the end portrays masculinity,
giving power, knowledge, and what not only in the hands of men. Woman in this
novel are depicted into some one-dimensional cage where they are suppressed by
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is sexist since it
neglects to speak to ladies as skilled people and neglects to give them names.
The emphasis on the presence of female characters as opposed to their story
voice is likewise a damage to ladies in the novella. Contending that Conrad
himself needed regard for ladies would be hard to demonstrate completely.
Nonetheless, the reality remains that through this novella, he made a character
that does not regard ladies. Moreover, Marlow’s perspectives on the female
personality and his emphasis on ladylike appearance as opposed to ladylike
impact or purpose demonstrate that he is a storyteller unfit to give a story
inviting towards ladies. Through this failure, Heart of Darkness sets itself as
not just a novella vigorously questionable for its way to deal with race, yet
in addition as a novella that does not have the regard expected to give its
female characters equity making it more of a critic material these days. The stereotypes
in this novella doesn’t exist today but still a matter of concern.
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (Great Britain: Penguin Classics,1985),
Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (Great Britain: Penguin Classics,1985), p. 100
Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (Great Britain: Penguin Classics,1985), p. 101
Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (Great Britain: Penguin Classics,1985), p. 84
Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (Great Britain: Penguin Classics,1985), p.34