Heart of Darkness is the tale of Marlow and his journey up the Congo River where he meets Kurtz, a man reputed to have great abilities. He tells of seeing natives enslaved and describes the contrast between the impassive and majestic jungle with the cruel industry of the white man’s tiny settlements.
The Russian claims that Kurtz has enlarged his mind and cannot be subjected to the same moral judgments as normal people. Apparently, Kurtz has established himself as a god with the natives and they appear to obey his commands.
Marlow listens to Kurtz talk while he pilots the ship, and Kurtz entrusts Marlow with a packet of personal documents, including an eloquent pamphlet on civilizing the savages which ends with a scrawled message that says, “Exterminate all the brutes!” Kurtz then dies, and Marlow determines to see his fiancée. She still idolises him so Arlow lies to spare her feelings telling her Kurtz’s last words were her name when really they were “The horror! The horror!” Eventually he returns to Europe and goes to see Kurtz’s fiancée.
Reviewing this book at this time is really hard for me. I could talk about the writing, the lush descriptions, or the historical context and why this book was important then, but none of that feels right.
Because as I write this black men and women are dying at white hands just as they are in this book. And, just as in this book, their voices and faces are passed over, they don’t seem to count for anything. So much so that when I typed the first sentence of this paragraph the w of white autocorrected to a capital but the b of black hadn’t.
I felt uncomfortable reading this book so I think you should read it too. Notice if you will, just how much black lives don’t matter in this story. Remember Britain’s role in the slave trade. And see why the movement and hashtag #BlackLivesMatter really does matter. And please, if you’re white never try to say ‘but all lives matter’ because white lives have and still do matter – they don’t need a hashtag or a movement. Black lives do.