Heart Of Darkness Essay, Research Paper
In the novel, Second Class Citizen, the main character, Adah, is a strong, Nigerian
women who faces sexism from within her own culture since she was born. She explains,
?She was a girl who had arrived when everyone was expecting and predicting a boy…
She was so insignificant? (Emecheta 7). In the Ibo culture that Adah grew up in, being a
girl was looked down upon. Giving birth to a boy was a major accomplishment, whereas
giving birth to a girl was an equally major disappointment. Girls were taught to be useful,
not intelligent: ?A year or two would do, as long as she can write her name and count.
Then she will learn to sew? (Emecheta 9). In Ibo culture, girls were valued for their
domestic abilities. Adah refused to be measured by this, instead she was determined to go
to school and get an education. She worked had to overcome the sexist attitude that her
This sexist attitude continued after she got married to Francis. Francis is a typical
Ibo male. He held the view that the males should go and get educated and the female
should stay home, or in Francis? case, work to support his education. Adah knew his
attitude, ?The sharpness seemed to say to her: ?It is allowed for African males to come
and get civilsed in England. But that privileged has not been extended to females yet??
(Emecheta 36). Francis is a pure reflection of the values held by the Ibos. All Francis
wanted from Adah was money, to pay for his education, and sex: ?As far as he was
concerned marriage was sex and lots of it, nothing more? (Emecheta 41). To Francis,
Adah was a sexual object. As far as he was concerned, her feelings didn?t matter, she was
not a real person. Adah knew she was up against the enemy when she challenged Francis,
but she was able to rise about he sexism and leave Francis. Not only does she go against
her own culture, but she wants her children to reject the sexist attitude as well: ?My sons
will learn to treat their wives as people? (Emecheta 121). Adah is a strong women who
will not let herself be objectified and will not let the sexism of her culture keep her
down. Adah would dislike the way that women are portrayed in Joseph Conrad?s Heart of
Darkness because women are treated as though they do not belong in the real world.
Women are treated as objects instead of people with thoughts and feelings. It is this
treatment that Adah worked hard to overcome.
In Joseph Conrad?s Heart of Darkness, Marlow, the narrator of most of the story,
tell the story of his journey into the Congo searching for the lost ivory trader, Mr. Kurtz.
Throughout Marlow?s journey, he encounters different types of women. In his encounters
with his Aunt, the African women, and Mr. Kurtz?s intended fiancee, Marlow shows his
demeaning and sexist view of women. Marlow objectifies women depending on their
race. The white European females are looked upon as domestic beings who should tend
only to their home worlds, while the only African women is portrayed as a sexual object.
It is this objectivity that causes Marlow to never reveal the truth about Mr. Kurtz?s life
The first woman that we meet is Marlow?s aunt. She is the one paying for his trip
to the Congo, yet Marlow does not respect her views. Marlow says, ?She talked about
?weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,? till, upon my word, she made
me quite uncomfortable… It?s queer how out of touch with women are? (Conrad 11). In
essence, Marlow is saying that women are out of touch with reality, even though it is
clear that his Aunt?s views about Africans reflect the popular view of the time. That view
being to Christianize Africa and get rid of their traditional culture. This view was held by
the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Leoplod II and other prominent men of the time. Marlow
does not recognizes his Aunt?s views simply because she is a women and he doesn?t
think women belong in the real world. He says, ?They [women] live in a world of their
own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be? (Conrad 11). Marlow
expresses the fact that women live in sort of a alternate universe, that is that they are out
of touch with reality. Because of this, women have no place in the workings of society,
that being in politics or social issues. Therefore, his Aunt is good enough to fund
Marlow?s trip, but her usefulness stops with the money. She is treated as a money tree
instead of an individual with thoughts and views of her own.
The only African women introduced in the novel is Kurtz?s house maid. She is
looked upon as a different sort of object, she is the object of sexual desire. She is
described with animalistic qualities by Marlow: ?She walked with measured steps,
draped in striped and fringed clothes, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and
flash of barbarous ornaments? (Conrad 55). This description gives the image of a vicious
cat walking across the ground with ?…measured steps.. treading the earth?. She is not
physically described with human qualities, but as more of an exotic beast-like creature.
She also stirs up desire in Marlow?s heart, as he describes her presence: ?…The colossal
body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had
been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul? (Conrad 56). Her
presence gives rise to the passion in Marlow?s soul as well. It is her mysterious quality
that is so attractive. She is not viewed as a human, but as an object of sexual desire
because she is exotic and mysterious. Marlow recalls the man of patches saying, ?If she
had offered to come aboard I really think I would have tried to shoot her? (Conrad 56 ).
The fact that these men would be so quick to kill her shows that they don?t view her as a
human because they would never be so quick to kill a white women. Her sexuality is
threatening to the men, and it allows them to look at her as an object instead of a human
The last women that Marlow encounters is Kurtz?s intended fiancee, who is
simply referred to as the ?Intended?. She is first mentioned in Kurtz?s jabbering. He says,
?Oh she is out of it- completely. They- the women I mean- are out of it- should be out of
it? (Conrad 44). Kurtz is saying that women are out of touch with the real world. They
are not aware of what goes on outside their own world, and that is the way it should be.
Women should not think about what goes on in the world. Kurtz tells Marlow, ?We must
help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worst? (Conrad 44).
In essence, Kurtz is instructing Marlow to keep his Intended in the dark about what is
really going on in the Congo. The ?women?s world? is one that is ignorant to the harsh
realities of life , such as the mad man that Kurtz has become. Kurtz does not want his
Intended to know what he has become because he might lose her and that would be like
losing a possession to him. Kurtz exclaims, ??My Intended, my ivory, my station, my
river, my-?, everything belonged to him? (Conrad 44). Kurtz?s Intended is grouped with
his other possessions like ivory and his station. He sees her as a belonging instead of a
It is the objectification of Kurtz?s Intended that in the end stops Marlow from
telling the truth about Kurtz?s death. With Kutrz?s Intended in mourning, Marlow tells
her, ??The last word he pronounced was- your name?? (Conrad 71). Marlow knows
Kurtz?s true last words, which were ??The horror! The horror!?? (Conrad 64), but he
could not bring himself to tell her the truth. By telling her Kurtz?s true last words,
Marlow would have place her into the real world and she would have had to face those
realities. By keeping her in the dark, Marlow leaves her in her fantasy world where she
will never realize she is more that someone?s possession, she is an individual.
Through the objectification of women in the Heart of Darkness, the true nature of
imperialism as displayed in Kurtz is never revealed to the world. Just as Marlow will not
recognize the views of women as individuals, the world will never recognize the true
nature of imperialism.