Role of Women in Heart of Darkness

1631 words 7 pages
The Role of Women in Heart of Darkness

These days, women are as successful and as career-oriented as men. This fact is punctuated by the fact that women are now experiencing stress and disease that used to be the constant companions of men in the workforce. Such is the price of equality and career mobility! However, in the early 1900s, females were still held to be less viable than men and in stories were often portrayed as subservient and weak and thus cast in inferior roles to men. At this time, civilization did not recognize equality between men and women. Joseph Conrad, while considered unique in his critique of imperialism, reflected the traditional treatment of the women as the lesser sex and this represented in the Heart of
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He seems to view his aunt as "out of touch with the truth" along with the rest of womankind, who are in "a world of their own.” It seems again that while the world of women may be separate from the realm of Marlow and other males, these worlds remain fiercely co-dependent on each other.
Just as Marlow depended on his aunt's social skills for employment, Conrad has the women characters depend on men to uphold their notions of what happens in spheres outside their own. Men seem to be the portal to any events of consequence in the world. Marlow cannot seem to break his aunt's belief that the Congo mission is largely about "weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways" because explaining the male experience of the Congo would crack the all important wall separating women from men and the truth and those whose "ways" are really changed by the mission.
Only one woman sees the transformation of men removed from civilization. Conrad decides to attribute to Kurtz's mistress more powerful language and influence than any other woman in the novella. As "savage and superb" and "ominous and stately," she inspires immediate awe and attention from all around her. She remains a silent presence in the story and therefore not able achieve true agency unlike her lover and perhaps mentor, Kurtz, whose greatest attribute and weapon is his voice. Even voiceless, however, she remains a force of her own, certainly one that could challenge the viability of the wall that


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