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The Congo river importance in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

The Congo river, which is located in the African continent is an important symbol in this novel. Joseph Conrad has used a variety of symbols in this novella, the river being one of those. In this novella, Joseph Conrad has portrayed an original experience from his own life, when he went on an expedition to Africa. The river is a symbol of movement, as it carries human beings into the deeper Africa. The protagonist Marlow travels towards the Inner Station in order to meet the great ivory trader Mr. Kurtz. He takes on a steamship along with his fellow passengers and moves inwards. The Congo river is the depiction of continuity of movements. The events in the story keep moving forward as the narrator keeps moving on the Congo River. The river was the only way for the white men to enter the dark regions of Africa and exploit the Natives. The European companies set up their Stations for ivory trading inside Africa, and it was through the Congo river, that it was made possible. They extracted valuable resources like ivory from the African soil and carried them back to Europe on ships and boats through the Congo River. Therefore, the Congo River also plays a very important role in trade.

The river is the only way to enter African regions, since the vegetations on either sides were too thick and dense to cross on foot. The inner they move the farther they move from civilization and the rest of the world. The Inner Station is the last destination of Marlow where he is ought to meet Kurtz. Sailing becomes hard as the current grows stronger, but nevertheless Marlow doesn’t stop his journey. The river separates civilization of the outer world from the barbarism of the dark continent. Marlow overcome several hurdles throughout his journey, like the attack of Natives, in which the Helmsman is killed. The fog covering the Congo river signifies the uncertainty of the journey.

The Congo river tries to push the narrator and his crew away with its strong current, signifying the protection of Africa from the evil minded Europeans. The Congo is not just a river, but a symbol used by Joseph Conrad to create vivid imagery in his novella. Without the presence of the river, the story would have not been possible. The forward Marlow moves through The Congo, he witnesses the barbaric treatment of the Natives by the Europeans. They are exploited by the so-called civilized Europeans, under the umbrella of spreading the light of enlightenment. But Marlow notices the cruelty of his countrymen as the river moves him forward, and he comes to a realization about the bitter truth of his folks. Thus, The Congo River also helps the story in exposing the dark reality behind European colonization of Africans.

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