Term Paper: British Imperialism Be Explained?

Pages: 5 (1450 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind -- as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. (Conrad 69)

Once embarked into that other river, the Congo, it becomes obvious that for Conrad, the dark continent represents both interior and exterior Mystery, the Mystery one meets when entering an unfamiliar environment. As Marlow describes the alien landscape, it becomes a symbol for the Mystery inside himself:

The smell of mud, of primeval mud, by Jove!...in my nostrils, the high stillness of primeval forest was before my eyes; there were shiny patches on the black creek. The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of silver -- over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetations...over the great river I could see through a sombre gap glittering, glittering, as it flowed broadly by without a murmur... I felt how big, how confoundedly big, was that thing that couldn't talk, and perhaps was deaf as well. What was in there? I could see a little ivory coming out from there, and I had heard Mr. Kurtz was in there... Yet somehow it didn't bring any image with it -- no more than if I had been told an angel or a fiend was in there. I believed it in the same way one of you might believe there are inhabitants in the planet Mars. (Conrad 93-94)

Marlow has left what he knows. Away from the society that has 'civilized' him, he is experiencing the initial tremors as he begins to feel what Conrad describes as: "the stillness on the face of the immensity." (Conrad 94)

For Conrad, nature as experienced in Africa, represents our own deep sources of which we have so little understanding:

We stopped, and the silence driven away by the stamping of our feet flowed back again from the recesses of the land. The great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass of trunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the moonlight, was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants, piled up crested, ready to topple over the creek, to sweep every little man of us out of our little existence. And it moved not. A deadened burst of mighty splashes and snorts reached us from afar, as though an ichthyosaurus had been taking a bath of glitter in the great river. (Conrad 98)

Nature shows Marlow that individual men are of little significance in the vast scheme of things, revealing itself as so much more imposing and majestic than the entire grandiose British empire. Company men could scheme all they liked, but the natural world of Africa would prevail: "The high stillness confronted these two figures with its ominous patience, waiting for the passing away of a fantastic invasion." (Conrad 102) The wilderness is always "patient." It closes over expeditions of white men "as the sea closes over a diver." (Conrad 102)

As the voyage progresses, Conrad increasingly embodies both the dark motivation of imperialism and individual man's inner darkness in the character of Kurtz. When dangerous navigation and darkness delay Marlow in his approach to Kurtz, Conrad uses a nature to mirror Marlow's inner state:

The reach was narrow...The dusk came gliding into it long before the sun had set. The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat of the banks. The living trees, lashed together by the creepers and every living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed into stone...It was not sleep -- it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf -- then night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. (Conrad 109)

Marlow is very near to the heart of darkness now. The next in morning he will encounter the savage natives. "Thick fog" and "impenetrable undergrowth" (Conrad 114) are the natural conditions that surround this meeting. The inability of the "pilgrims" on [END OF PREVIEW]

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British Imperialism Be Explained?.  (2002, October 30).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/british-imperialism-explained/7662005

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"British Imperialism Be Explained?."  Essaytown.com.  October 30, 2002.  Accessed May 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/british-imperialism-explained/7662005.