Historicizing Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Critique of King Leopold II’s Colonial Rule

  •  Isam Shihada    


This study examines how Conrad's Heart of Darkness has played an important role in exposing the brutal reality of Belgian colonialism in the Congo Free State under the pretense of a civilizing mission. The study focuses on how Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been instrumental in revealing the atrocities committed by King Leopold II’s agents in their desperate scramble for the rich resources of the Congo, such as ivory and rubber. King Leopold II’s atrocities may account for the death of almost ten million Congolese natives, a crime of a genocidal scale, which has terribly affected the people of the Congo to this day. Conrad renders his own anti-colonial critique through his central character, Charles Marlow, who learns about the brutal methods of Belgian colonialism while on a journey to the Congo searching for the infamous ivory agent, Kurtz. The study examines how Conrad's Heart of Darkness critiqued King Leopold II's colonial rule and contributed to the launching of an international protest which exposed and put an end to the genocide committed against the Congolese in the name of civilization, science, and progress. The campaign eventually forced King Leopold II to quit the Congo Free State in 1908, and unraveled one of the most heinous crimes in history committed under the pretext of “civilization”.

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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