Comment on the use of irony and satire in Heart of
How does Conrad satirize the evil of imperialism in
Heart of Darkness?
Ans. Irony is a figure of speech in which the writer or the
speaker says one thing when he means something different or
opposite of his meaning. Irony adds much pungency to an
observation and is very much effective in exposing the vices and
follies of men and women. Heart of Darkness is replete with
elements of irony and satire.
In it Conrad has satirized the evil of
imperialism through effective use of ironies all through the novel.
Elements of irony may be traced in Marlow’s descriptions of
places, things and person’s behaviour. For example, Marlow’s
medical examination at the Company’s headquarters in Brussels is
ironical. The description of the warship firing its guns without any
purpose is ironical, since no enemy is visible in the forest and the
warship is merely wasting its ammunition. There is also irony in the
fact that, although the whitemen have brought a lot of machinery in
the dark country of the Congo, the machinery is lying unused.
There is lot of irony in Marlow’s description of the white agents,
loitering about at the Central Station in the Congo, and in MarloWs
describing these men as ‘faithless pilgrims’.
The irony here becomes most pungent when Marlow says, “I verily believe they took these
sticks to bed with them”. The portrayal of the manager’s uncle and
the brick-maker who tries to elicit information from Marlow is
ironical, because he wrongly believes that Marlow has influence over
the higher officials of the Company.
The greatest irony in Heart of Darkness is the transformation of
Mr. Kurtz from a civilized whiteman into a savage. In his early life
Mr. Kurtz was a man of sound sense and an enlightened outlook upon
life. He was admired throughout the whole of Europe. But we are
puzzled to see the change in his character and outlook after his
prolonged stay in the interior of the Congo. Instead of civilizing the
savages, he fell an easy prey to the life and customs of the savages.
The wilderness seemed to have consumed his flesh and spirit and
transformed his whole being completely into a devil. Thus, the
opposite of what was expected from Mr. Kurtz has happened.
The irony becomes all the greater when Marlow tells Kurtz’s
fiancée in England that the last word uttered by her lover before his
death was her own name. The actual fact is that the last words
spoken by Kurtz were “The horror! The horror!.” The irony here
arises from the contrast between what Mr. Kurtz had actually become
and what his fiancée sti!! continues to think about him.
Thus irony has been used in Heart of Darkness as an effective
weapon to satirise and unfold the evil designs and hypocrisy of the
white imperialistic rule in a backward country like the Congo.