In "Heart of Darkness", Joseph Conrad shows The Hidden Savagery of Civilization

Essay by dedog45High School, 12th gradeA+, September 2006

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"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth" (18).

The stigma that is often placed on African nations is that they are full of ruthless, cannibalistic savages who have no morals whatsoever. People often think that natives in Africa are merely primitive forms of civilized people. But, in reality are cultured people and natives really different from each other? In the novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses the Congo as a metaphor for European civilization by showing that only societal restraints separate the civilized world from the supposed savagery of the natives.

There exist many societal restraints that prevent us from becoming like the savages of Africa. These basic properties of the civilized world limit the freedom of its citizens, and in turn prevent human nature from taking its course. Marlow discusses how an ordinary person could not have understood what happened with Kurtz:

You can't understand...with

solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums - how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammeled feet may take him into by the way of solitude... These little things make all the great difference" (81-82).

Even though these restraints are anything but monumental, they all protect civilization from becoming a barbarous place. The pavement, for example, leads to a predetermined path where the outcome has already been explored, whereas the mud leads to an unknown destination. Also, the butcher in a city does the killing so the ordinary people can avoid it. Without these restraints people revert to their internal savagery.

If the civilized society that we live...