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Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad


Moral corruption is a serious threat that poses in the doors of humanity. This eventually become widespread threat for social corruption if major percentage in society will be afflicted.

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Literary experts say that the moon shadow of the humanities’ moral and social practices can be easily discern in some of the major works contributed in American literature. One good example is the work of Joseph Conrad.


Heart of Darkness is a story written by Conrad, first appeared as three-part series in Blackwood’s Magazine (1899, and eventually published into a novella, published in 1902. It is known for its frame story or a story within the story format.

The need to use such literature as reference to discuss the issue of moral and social corruption is to map the matter with concrete instances that complies with it. Conrad’s account is credibly acknowledged academically as his writing is faithful to his experiences.

Conrad accounted his experiences while serving a captain in Congo for eight years. Within painful circumstance and been stricken with illness, these had been his inspirations and references to create the novella.

In the story, the main character Marlow sees all kind of men. He sees different kind of men along with their sickening moral traits and perspectives, which didn’t escape his observant perception while pursuing a search mission for a mysterious trader Kurtz.

Experts say that Heart of Darkness pertains to the Dark Continents. However, digging deeper the message of the story, the dark continent is actually the corrupt heart of Kurtz.

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Kurt is a good example of being morally and socially corrupted. He started to be an idealist who was willing to give hand for the African people in need, on the process, a year actually, he turned out to be a different man; he became colonial and exploited the African people he initially wanted to help.

It is evident in the story that these changes have much to do with foundations of Western colonialism as they do with the corruption of one individual man. Compared to the cultural orientation of other global parts, Western Culture is undeniably self-centered.

Along with this is the thought of a non-existent proof of being superior race over others. There’s no such thing as superior race, but a delusional norm that had scattered greatly like cancer in the minds of many, like in the case of Kurtz.

Because of these delusions that Kurt set in for himself, he was destroyed morally and socially. He has violated not just himself but others as well whom he thinks that ‘can be easily manipulated’ as he doesn’t understand the goodness of others’ heart, for he has otherwise.

T.S. Elliot made a poem titled The Hollow Men (1925). The title came from the “The Hollow Land” by William Morris with the poem “The Broken Men” by Rudyard Kipling. The piece has great relevance with the issue or moral and social corruption as well.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

This last stanza of Elliot’s poem is suggestive of how much cruelty a man with corrupted heart and mind able to do against his fellowmen. One can find a way how to wipe humanity in his own hand with his fierce anger, just for power and for one’s gratification.

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These are proven to be existent to the mind of the cruel people known in the history. Their vast heart is obviously the darkest part just as Conrad has portrayed in his story.

Francis Ford Coppola recognized the work of Conrad and made it into a film version. Though modified, the film has depicted the same theme of greed and the likes of these human traits that are cause and effect of man’s moral and social corruption.

Marlon Brando played Walter E. Kurtz, who was gone AWOL in the US Army Special Forces and is believed to be mentally challenged. Martin Sheen played Willard, the protagonist of the story.

The film has effectively delivered the message of the severe corruption that is rampantly happening within us, and within our environment. Corruption is cancer, it will start in tumor like organism and it will spread eventually if not prevented.

Moral and social cancer happened first to Kurtz in this portrayal, which afflicted as well Willard’s upon his obsession of observing Kurtz. In this manner, it is debatable if Willard is a hero or just as the same as Kurtz who was consumed as well by this abstract cancer, of greed as cause and effect of it.

However, the film has redemptive execution being portrayed in the character of Willard, making it balance and realistic of two kinds of heart that dwells within the humanity, and distinction is visible whenever these encounter each other.


The Heart of Darkness is a story of adventure, written in the perspective of Marlow, a weathered sea captain who accepted a new mission of exploration. However, searching the depth of the story will lead you the vast and darkest part of a human heart depicted in the characters.

The corruption of both morality and in society is heightened by the description of idealism in the character of Marlow. Distinction is not a thin line between idealism and corruption.

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However, Kurtz managed to do the transition. From being idealistic, he crossed in the dark side upon learning the weakness of the African people under his care.

Dr. Richard Sweir (2008) stated that:

“The social, moral, and ethical values that raised us from a few colonies to the worlds most prosperous and mightiest nation are in disarray. Social and moral values are under incessant attack by the far left, by the news media, by law and by the judiciary, and by a lot of ordinary good folk who do it just because it is allowed. Ethics is no longer a required discipline”.

This is true to the film portrayal of movie adaptation of Conrad’s work by Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Media can really be influential as means of conveying a seed of corruption to a person.

Negative and irresponsible input can damage moral perspective of a person. From an individual, the practiced corrupt morality can transmit to a bigger scope of elements that will be inflicted and affected as well.

Responsibility of the act can be the solution for this moral and social malady. Though the percentage of the inflicted ones is in its highest, this is still treatable if understanding and sense of responsibility sets in, and put into application.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 17). Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

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"Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad." StudyCorgi, 17 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Corruption in The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad'. 17 October.

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