Heart of Darkness - Female Roles

Heart of Darkness

  In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, the protagonist Charlie Marlow’s overall view of women embodies the 19th century mentality of females being the inferior sex. This perspective is broadened through the use of several minor female characters, who serve not only to contrast the different roles and placement on the social hierarchy of that time, but to allude to the predominant issue of imperialism and idealism in the novel. Among the women include Marlow’s aunt, Kurtz’s mistress, and Kurtz’s “intended”. These women are said to be “voiceless” due to the fact that in the novel they are depersonalized, generalized, and over-shadowed by the duties and mentalities of men. (…women are dehumanized by being divided into spirit and body and are denied the full humanity that requires possession of both) (Hawthorn 151) Despite their “silence” they do still hold an influence over the men, and it is through the minor female roles that this point becomes evident.

  Firstly, Marlow’s aunt represents a prime example of his beliefs that women are but naïve illusions in their own world. (It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset.”) (Conrad 85) He perceives them as being inferior to men, while having no true influence on them. His mindset is ironic in the sense that he thinks of women this way, yet it is his own aunt, a woman, who gets him the job aboard the steamboat through her own personal connections. ("Then-would you believe it-I tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work-to get a job! Heavens!") (Conrad 83) He is evidently ashamed of what he’d resorted to, but pleased nevertheless that he was able to obtain the job. It is through his aunt that he recognizes some mere importance of women, and inevitably recognizes the help...