May 22, 2024


Business – Your Game

Ivory Trade in “The Heart Of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

At first sight, Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” might seem to be a truthful narration of an incident, bestowing a vivid and great vista of Congo forests to the reader. However, delving deep, betrays the story merely as a kind of caption determined by the dominant culture under the beautiful and mysterious far land pictures of Africa. The matter of colonialism and power relations in the story are interesting proofs to the Cultural Materialist beliefs of Raymond Williams and his theories of residual, emergent, and subversion, and also to the theories put forward by Foucault being the foreground of New Historicism. Manifesting Kurtz’s small but ferocious empire has made a great example of the power nexus fertilizing bloodily a kind of culture and society at service for the ivory trade, and also a new society with new regulations dominating the natives.

Marlow’s fidelity in narrating the story is doubted as he is a white man narrating the story miles away from Congo and the forests, and we know that through the distance in place we are capable of setting a fanciful distance of time. Most importantly, his listeners are some Europeans infatuated by the mysterious African world narrations ever since, among whom one has become the author of the story. This author is a third character, an omnipotent narrator whose panoptical view exists throughout the whole story as he tries to prove the opposite through the same medium. Therefore, the story is dubious because of its doubled Eurocentric discourse. In “Heart of the Darkness”, the more the author has tried to shatter the links of hegemony in his story, it is well understood that how he degrades the Africans as the others, in order to over joy his pride. The context of what he has written is a kind of rereading or reinterpretation of the history behind.

The Ivory trade has caused the creation of a new society. In other words, a new society has emerged with new emergents based on the past residuals, here cannibalism e.g., to obtain the ends in the best way possible. The ivory trade is a symbolic trade of the white in the heart of darkness. The truth and beauty are only void excuses to throw the shadow of power upon the others. They are the conceptions made by the dominant, here the European countries, to control the colonies and colonizing them easily. The company is in Congo to make money, and the “civilizing of the natives” was supposed to be a by-product of this capitalist venture.

Ivory trade seems to be the reason for the creation of the new society governed by the omnipotent Kurtz, who has paced into the extremes of brutality to be overjoyed being a mighty ruler. The culture and the regulations had been set for the ivory trade and after awhile reshaped into a kind of inner desire for power assuaged by becoming a real cannibal. In fact it seems that cannibalism has been a nightmare, which has come true by Kurtz, as there are no traces of cannibalism given by Marlow in the story among the natives, although they are mentioned by this name throughout the whole story. For Kurtz, horror becomes the means by which he overpowers the others and controls them. The precious ivory, the material precious to the Europeans, is this minute economic subject which has become a base structure for the superstructure modified by Kurtz. This trade is influential on the superstructure and its progression procedures, and also the latter affects the former in a tight mutual relation. Marlow says: “mind, what saves us is efficiency, the devotion to efficiency.” They are all at work to keep the miserable as they are. Ironically, the story is narrated by Marlow in a way that the European reader commiserates with Kurtz as he is dying, forgetting all about the shrunken heads of the natives as stamps of his authority. The subversion of the civilizing mission of colonization is seemingly manifested by the author to criticize the dominant society and degrade the status of man not as a superman substituting the “Dead God”, yet he does so as a European writer lowering down the natives as objects in the hands of a white man subject.

Congo is a carriage of the European brutal power to the depth of brutality. Marlow tries to represent Kurtz as an exception for the civilized world, and changes his last words to hide the truth behind the discursive dominance as ever, and ends the story with a civilized, romantic lie, what is pleasing to the ears of the listener, and prows forth the tyranny of the mighty over the seemingly distinguished savage. Nietzche sees the truth as the mobile army of metaphors, and as a rhetorical rather than an empirical phenomenon. In the end, Kurtz ensures that Marlow will save his papers on the suppression of savage customs. He knows that the written documents are capable of enslaving the natives or the cannibals in the best way possible. A kind of manipulation of the surrounding is what he thirstily desires, even in deathbed.