Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad stands the test of time as one of our language’s foremost works depicting a European man in a foreign land. Throughout the work Marlow contributes to the overall sense that the English, in Africa for their infamous missionary work and bloody colonization, consider themselves civilized in comparison to the natives who they perceive as lacking in decency, spirituality, intelligence, and community.
Marlow’s outlook is certainly typical of Victorian literature; the assumption that the upper class European man was the most refined and intelligent being in the universe makes the unreachable image of the British officer and war hero fitting for Conrad’s time. The Victorian ethic was undeniably Anglo-centric and agoraphobic. Foreign lands were uncharted territory that could belong to any empire with the power to colonize and the natives were fit only to convert, kill, or enslave. But Conrad takes this idea of manifest destiny that was so prevalent during his time and turns it on its head.