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The Moral Conditions for Genocide in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

Michael Lackey
College Literature
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter, 2005), pp. 20-41
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25115244
Page Count: 22
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The Moral Conditions for Genocide in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"
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Abstract

Scholars have consistently used a moral lens to interpret the novels of Joseph Conrad. Conrad rejects morality. However, Conrad does not reject morality because it is an essential concept that leads necessarily to social injustice. Rather, he rejects it because it is such an amorphous concept that political powers can so easily exploit in order to justify some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, specifically genocide. This essay, examines how a charismatic political figure appropriates morality in order to justify crimes against humanity, and more specifically how an intelligent imperialist like Kurtz can strategically construct a political system that makes a crime like genocide a moral imperative.

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