Ivory plays a significant role in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Ivory is a hard white material extracted from the tusk of elephants. Ivory is highly precious in Africa and Europe and it is used to create artworks and other items. The European traders’ main focus in the African continent is its diverse resources, including ivory. The European companies exploit these resources and sell them in the European market for high prices.
Ivory can be viewed as a symbol of white man’s greed. It is a source of making money which attracts the Europeans to the ‘uncivilized’ Africa. Kurtz has been completely addicted to ivory an his greed has made him lose his sense of morality. He has extracted much more ivory than all other workers in Africa. This can be clearly pictured as the result of his uncontrollable greed and avarice. His head is being compared to ‘an ivory ball’. The wilderness and savagery has completely deteriorated his sensibility. Even the word ‘ivory’ was present in the air itself. Three stations were built amidst the dense vegetation of Congo river, only for the trade of ivory. Ivory is the symbol of darkness, despite being white in color. Kurtz has become one of the savages and the Africans are exploited by the white people only for the sake of ivory. Kurtz wields a God like power among the Natives and doesn’t think twice before killing another human in his lust for ivory. He kills anyone who doesn’t obey him, and hangs their heads on his fence. Thus, ivory is purely the symbol of greed and lust. Ivory makes the white men forget about their roots, and leads them to barbarisim, nothing musch different from the ‘uncivilized’ Africans. It is a contrast to Kurtz. Ivory is white and pure, whereas Kurtz’s heart is filled with darkness and wickedness.
Kurtz’s passionn for ivory hunting signifies the extent to which human can go to fulfill their desire. Even while he’s in his death bed, carried on stretcher by some of the Natives, he keeps mumbling about his ivory treasures. Thus, ivory is a pure symbol of European’s greed and cause of their African domination.