Abstract

This article, while rooted in critical literature, is interdisciplinary, drawing upon political and social theory, history, law, and social sciences to address the problem of evil in an environment dominated by crimes against humanity: the Congo during the reign of the Belgian King Leopold. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, published in 1899, is based in part on the author's experiences aboard the steamship Roi des Belges on the Congo River in 1890. The narrative contains three representations of evil: the base, primitive, perverse allure of lust and greed in the deepest recesses of the human psyche; evil at the heart of civilization and modernity; and the banal complicity of ordinary people whose silence and denial allows evil to prosper. Without impugning the quality or importance of Heart of Darkness, either as literature or as part of the global discourse on human rights, it is nevertheless argued that the primitive allure of evil is emphasized in the narrative to the detriment of representations of more subtle and civilized manifestations of evil. By redirecting attention to background elements of the story, including the behavior of the Belgian regime and especially the banal complicity of the protagonist Marlow, this essay aims to contribute to the discourse on crimes against humanity and the advancement of human rights.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-794X
Print ISSN
0275-0392
Pages
pp. 584-604
Launched on MUSE
2004-08-05
Open Access
No
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