In this report we shall discuss to what extent Conrad's Heart of Darkness may be read as an accusation of the Belgian rule in the Congo. We shall also analyze the way in which Conrad portrays the white company employees and their treatment of Africans.
The narrative "Heart of Darkness” is an ingenuous account of the atrocities taking place in Africa during the reign of King Leopold II and is a high quality aid for the study of Belgian imperialism in the Congo, which is written by Joseph Conrad.
King Leopold II first became interested in the Congo as a place of colonial exploration while following the expeditions of the British Henry Morton Stanley in the mid nineteenth century. Leopold was adamant in finding a small colony for Belgium and an African state seemed most desirable (Scott, 11-12).
The main reasons for going to the Congo were economic, political and religious. The economic motives were fueled by the desire to make money by exploiting cheap labor to remove vital raw materials such as ivory and rubber, to expand and control foreign trade and to compete for investments and resources. The political reasons were to expand Belgium's territory into other continents, to exercise their military force, to compete with other European countries, to gain power and boost national pride and security (Gondola, 24-29). Finally, not only the Belgians but most Europeans believed that the Africans were uncivilized and needed to be introduced to European ways. Christian missionaries went to Africa to convert the natives but also built schools and hospitals to try and improve the quality of life. Missions, such as the Presbyterian mission set up by William Henry Sheppard, encouraged the Africans to regularly attend church. White preachers would conduct the services, spreading the Christian gospel.
At first, the Belgians thought what they were doing was justifiable, or they at least acted like they did. One such example of this is a speech made by Stanley in 1877 (Scott, 11-12):
"There are 40,000 naked people beyond that gateway, and the cotton-spinners of Manchester are waiting to clothe them . . . Birmingham's foundries are glowing with red metal that shall presently be made into ironwork in every fashion and shape for them. . . . and the ministers of Christ are zealous to bring them, the poor benighted heather, into the Christian fold".
The Belgians took over villages, zoning areas and providing them with stations under white rule. Many ancient Africans colonies found themselves split up and forced to convert to the customs of the white man (Gondola, 24-29).
Another motive for going to the Congo was to end slave trading in Africa. Ironically, ending the slave trading was the antithesis of Leopold's actions in the Congo.
Joseph Conrad, a seaman turned writer, was interested in the innermost regions of the Belgian Congo from a very young age. He had, on in 1890, visited the Congo and was shocked at the atrocities being carried out on behalf of the Europeans. He recorded his story in ...