Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to your self that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend." (2.8)
Marlow begins to feel a teeny, tiny sense of kinship with the native Africans, and he even says that he's starting to understand their screams. At this point, Marlow is turning away from the traditional views of imperialists, who do not see the conquered native Africans as human.
"And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs. A few months of training had done for that really fine chap. He squinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an evident effort of intrepidity—and he had filed teeth too, the poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks. He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his feet on the bank, instead of which he was hard at work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge. He was useful because he had been instructed; and what he knew was this—that should the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evil spirit inside the boiler would get angry through the greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance. So he sweated and fired up and watched the glass fearfully (with an impromptu charm, made of rags, tied to his arm, and apiece of polished bone, as big as a watch stuck flatways through his lower lip), while the wooded banks slipped past us slowly…." (2.8)
Marlow may not be a total racist jerk, but he still doesn't consider the native Africans his equal. He sees them instead as animals, calling this fireman "a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs." They don't bother teaching him anything about hydraulics or engineering; they just tell him that an evil spirit will take revenge if the boiler ever becomes empty. This is essentially the same as getting your kid to stay in bed by telling her that there's a monster under it.
"He [Kurtz] began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings - we approach them with the might of a deity,' and so on, and so on. 'By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm." (2.29)
Kurtz honestly believes, or used to believe, in the goodness of imperialism. He believed that the white man could bring goodness and enlightenment to the black Africans. But to Kurtz, this is only possible if the white man plays the part of a god. Kurtz envisions a utopia not of equality between the two races, but of a peaceful and benevolent reign of the white man over the black—a kind of master/ slave relationship. But Kurtz seriously underestimates what that means.