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The Hegemony Of Imperial Rule English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1285 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It shall be prudent to begin by giving a brief definition of what is meant by colonial discourse before looking at the texts. Colonial Discourse the way in which the hegemony of imperial rule is conveyed within the text as a set of values, representations and beliefs that reinforce the ideology.

It is “a term brought into currency by Edward Said who saw Foucault’s notion of a disclosure as valuable for describing that system within which that range of practices termed ‘colonial’ come into being.” [1] 

George Orwell’s Burmese Days has an array of imperialistic views which are held in opposing views with the main character, Flory, branding it “the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers rather than rob them.”

Flory describes imperialism as “the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers rather than to rob them” [2] 

Colonial discourse is key within the novel which as a result raises the question of identity and binary oppositions. None more so than in the case of Flory, in one breathe an honourable english gentleman enjoying the riches his new cultures has to offer and in the next berating the “dirty nigger” and bathing in the relief of being “out of the stink” for a time. [3] 

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Flory is a contradiction who is torn between his British roots and his love of the Burmese culture, this love is shown via his friendship with Dr Veraswami. Flory is the personification of Gramsci’s idea of Imperial ideology as he believes that the discourse providing the hegemony is right yet he faces an ideological struggle within himself due to his love of his new culture.

It can be argued that due to his steadfast dedication to the British Empire, for whom he works, he is a loyal imperialist and is comfortable using and exploiting the Burmese for his own gain aswell as trying to impose his ‘superior’ worth and colonise the Burmese. With his desire to do this along with integrating himself into the Burmese way of life he succeeds merely in creating a juxtaposition coupled with binary opposition that ultimately leads to his demise.

Heart of darkness

Heart of Darkness is part of a colonial discourse in which the African is represented by the European as “savage”, “exotic”, “cannibal”, “primitive”

“they did not eat each other before my face” page 93

critics such as Chin Achebe in his essay “An Image of Africa” looked upon Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a racist novel. He believed Conrad was using Africa as a prop in order to create a foil for Europe (always viewed through Europeans eyes). Achebe believed that Conrad was making generalizations about Africa, therefore also assuming that Conrad was the character of Marlow in the novel (through Marlow’s narration). In the novel, Achebe believed Europe came across as well developed, industrialized, and articulate while Africa was uncivilized, underdeveloped, unintelligible and animalistic

The term colonial discourse was coined by Edward Syiad, it is the habit of representation as colonial posers represent cultures they encounter through imperialism.

The men who work for the Company describe what they do as “trade,” and their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of “civilization.”Kurtz, on the other hand, is open about the fact that he does not trade but rather takes ivory by force, and he describes his own treatment of the natives with the words “suppression” and “extermination”:he does not hide the fact that he rules through violence and intimidation.

Kurtz on the other hand shows no remorse whatsoever. He holds the absolute essential view to exterminate all the blacks. He holds the ideology of making the black race extinct. He’s a ruthless ivory trader, and arranges for the dead heads to displayed on poles. The white race use crude violence, and brute force. Very occasionally the natives show resistance, but their left largely helpless against the overpowering military control of the Europeans. They have no authority or voice. The colonist’s have become corrupted. They are blinded by the notion that this is their sacred duty to uphold the superiority of the colonial empire and white heritage.

Through Marlow disapproval, he shows and exposes the Europeans, is equally deameaning, offensive, and undermines their superiority. “flabby white devils”.. Critiques immoral European behaviour. Transcends such prejudice, shows him to rise above racism. Ridicules benevolent project of civilisation. Uses an ambivalent tone to show the violent colonial enterprise. Kurtz the ultimate satanic, racist. Has the heart of darkness.

However if he is showing Africa to be the reason for the deterioration of the European man’s morale, it merely becomes a backdrop which eliminates the African as human factor. They have become marginalised. This marginalisation shows further through Kurtz mistress. He is racist towards her, but not so to his white woman.

It can be argued that Heart of Darkness participates in an oppression of nonwhites that is much more sinister and much harder to remedy than the open abuses of Kurtz or the Company’s men. Africans become for Marlow a mere backdrop, a human screen against which he can play out his philosophical and existential struggles. Their existence and their exoticism enable his self-contemplation.

This kind of dehumanization is harder to identify than colonial violence or open racism. While Heart of Darkness offers a powerful condemnation of the hypocritical operations of imperialism, it also presents a set of issues surrounding race that is ultimately troubling.

“The noble and idealistic Kurtz situated in darkest Africa submits to alcohol, isolation and megalomania and ends up radiating darkness.” [4] 

“It seems improbable that a rule which now rests on avowedly upon force can endure.” [5] E.M. Forster

“Critics have debated whether Conrad’s novel perpetuated colonialist views of the alleged inferiority of other peoples, or it questioned the entire colonial project, dissenting from colonial discourses.” [6] 

“In 1975 Chinua Achebe controversially denounced Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness on the grounds that it proved how Conrad was a throughgoing racist.” [7] 

Fin de siècle as “Marlow links britain’s contemporary imperialist drives to the uncivialised.” [8] 


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