Imperialist Ideology and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

  •  Shuting Sun    


This article will argue that the tragedy of both Kurtzes is that they are trapped in the perverse logic of the ideology of imperialism. The ideology of imperialism assumes the absolute superiority of the oppressor. It is self-contradictory because it is based upon classifying the oppressed as morally inferior, but maintaining imperialism requires systematic barbarity, which morally degrades the imperialist. The historical response of successful imperialists to this has been a special kind of hypocrisy embodied in an attempt at creating distance between actor and act, perpetrator and victim. This article will make the case that both Kurtzes are destroyed by their moral integrity. They honestly admit their depravity to themselves. This grants them great power in facilitating imperial strategic aims but forces them to acknowledge the lie at the heart of imperialist ideology that legitimized the strategy, rendering their acts purposeless. The honesty of their conduct undermines the imperialist ideology. The honesty of their undertakings causes the managers to increasingly perceive Kurtz as a threat and identify him with the ‘savages’ they are supposed to be ‘civilizing’. Kurtz challenges the hypocrisy of the ideology of imperialism precisely insofar as he helps it achieve its true aims.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4768
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-4776
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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