Both Conrad and Forster deal with British
colonialism in their novels Heart of Darkness and A
Passage to India. How do they differ in their treatment
of the natives?
“Conrad and E.M. Forster deal with British Colonialism
in their novels”— Discuss.
Ans. The theme of the evil of colonialism lies at the centres of
both the novels, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Forster’s A Passage
to India but they differ from each other in their treatment of the
theme. In both the novels we come across the natives who are treated
Conrad’s main purpose in Heart of Darkness is to show the
imperialist exploitation of a backward country by a civilized nation.
The theme of imperialism is traceable at the very beginning of
Marlow’s narration. The conquest of another country, says Marlow,
mostly means the taking away all things from those who have a
different complexion. Marlow’s (Conrad’s himself) experiences in the
Congo clearly show that the white men there failed to perform their
duties. Instead of civilizing the savage natives, the white men turned
The Congo was at that time being governed by the Belgian King
Læopold II, and the Belgian trading companies were sending their
agents into the Congo for trading purposes. Ivory was the chief
commodity they sought for. Later on, we •see that ivory not only
dominates the thoughts of Mr. Kurtz, the agent of the Belgian trading
company but also has become an obsession with him. The ivory
symbolizes the white men’s greed and commercial mentality. A
glorious example of evil and selfishness we find in Mr. Kurtz who has
begun to identify himself with the savages. Instead of improving their
way of life, he has himself become a savage in their company.
Actually Heart of Darkness portrays in a nutshell the deceit,
robberies, murder, slave trading and a general policy of cruelty of the
Belgian rule in Congo.
E.M. Forster, on the other hand, challenged the complacent
imperial assumption of the British ruling class that it ruled India for
India’s own good. Instead, Forster sees the British rule as. a
corrupting influence on both the ruler and the ruled. However,
Forster’s criticism of imperialism is based on ethical rather than
political convictions. In fact, as a political propaganda against the
British rule A Passage to India fails on many points. Nevertheless,
Forster’s condemnation of the British rule in India rests on a deep
humanist belief in the sanctity of personal relationship. Forster was
pained to see that close personal relationships that ought to have
existed between the Indians and the British, were corrupted by the
imperial rule due to its cruel division of humanity into the rulers and
the ruled, white and coloured.
The ruling Anglo- Indians think of their rule as a burden nobly
born by them in order to civilize the native barbarians. This
imperialistic attitude of the rulers can be marked in the words of
Ronny Heaslop, the city magistrate, who says “We’re out here to do
justice and keep the peace …… we are not pleasant in India and we
don’t intend to be pleasant. We have something more important to
do.” ‘This imperialistic prejudice produces a rigid system in which
humanity has been harshly divided into the whites and the coloured.
E.M. Forster E.M. Forster E.M. Forster E.M. Forster E.M. Forster