Relation between Colonizer and Colonized in Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness explores the intimate relation between colonizers and colonized. Marlow and Kurtz both are representative figures of colonizer who go on African land in the name of civilizing and educating the native people. All the ignorant native people who indirectly are influenced and made dependent towards European are colonized. If we see the activities between European visitors and the real native people of African lands, we can see the clear relation between colonizers and colonized.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

The colonizers are trying their best to colonize the people economically, socially, politically and mentally in different areas. Colonizers use different ways to colonize the people. In Heart of Darkness the very important action is the intention of collecting Ivory. Ivory symbolizes the white man's greed and the white man's commercial mentality. The white man's chief concern in the Congo is to collect ivory and send it to Europe. The greater the ivory collected, the greater is his achievement. Ivory is a kind of money, which European wants to collect and take in their own control. By doing this, they want to exploit the natives economically. The European trading company is the institutional representation of the colonizer to colonize the native economically.

This event shows the intention of European countries during the eighteenth century. By entering into so many third world countries they collected the raw materials and sold their commodities in those countries. By doing this, they succeeded in ruling over those countries politically to which is one of the crucial points to show the exploiting nature of colonizer towards the colonized. This European intention of ruling politically and exploiting economically caused the social colonization.

Conrad has addressed the problem of colonialism elsewhere in the novel Heart of Darkness. How Kurtz influenced the people of the native African land and took them under his direct control is very symbolic to see the relationship between colonizers and colonized in the novel. They say one thing but do the next. The distinction between what they say and really do should be understood to see the relation between colonizers and colonized. In the novel also Kurtz says that he wants to educate, help and enlighten the African people, but in reality he controls all the means of economic production, social conditions and even politically and he himself ties in the powerful, superior condition rather than all the native people. It is one of the most striking colonial motives of Kurtz. In the name of maintaining peace and order he developed a secret cult. This cult of secret ritual helped Kurtz make the African obey him. Hence, the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is the relation of domination. Kurtz exploited Congo to the in-depth satisfaction of his hungry self. He sent loads of ivory to Europe within two years, which clears the relation of the colonizer and the colonized is the relation of exploitation. In an effort to rule over them, he did not hesitate to sexually harass an African lady. He even displayed his threatening to the natives in terms of collecting ivory. Hence, the relation of the colonizer and the colonized is the relation of violence and terror.

The sights of wretchedness and misery of natives of the Congo clearly show the futility of the White man's seemingly useful work. Marlow sees a lot of black people some are naked, some are ill, some are chained, some are on the death bed, and some are starved and diseased. The chained are criminals who have violated the rules set by whites and soon they will face the death penalty. By showing such situation of Congo, it is made obvious that the white man's difference and unconcern are the main cause for the degradation of the black natives. Nowhere do we find any mention of any service being rendered by the Whites to the natives. This is an irony to the white man's so called 'mission to civilize the natives' and ‘the white man’s burden’.

In the same way, if we symbolically understand Marlow's role, it becomes clear that even he also selfishly and greedily devours the African land. Kurtz is only one of the best representative members of Marlow. The master plan has been plotted by Marlow. He imposes the seemingly sincere presence of colonizer in Africa together with the deceptive mask. His inner intention is to suck, the juice of African lands in an inner inhuman manner.

In this way the whole novel moves between the inhuman, deceptive and so-called helpful intention of colonizer who always wants to control the people in different ways. In that sense there lies the diplomatic relationship between colonizers and colonized in Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness.