Said’s “Darkness”

Said spends a good amount of time highlighting the ways imperialism has an effect on culture, and conversely, culture on imperialism. However, he begins an interesting argument about Conrad’s novel on page 29, when he states:

“Conrad’s genius allowed him to realize that the ever-present darkness could be colonized or illuminated – Heart of Darkness is full of references to the mission civilisatrice, to benevolent as well as cruel schemes to bring light to the dark places and the peoples of this world by acts of will and deployments of power – but that it also had to be acknowledged as independent.” (Said 29-30)

Conrad’s choice of the word “darkness” encompasses the physical color of the people, as well as the evils of imperialism encroaching on culture. Said utilizes Conrad’s text to illuminate the independence of the darkness as a power contrary to imperialism. It is not simply something to be conquered by imperialism, but a cultural entity that works throughout imperialist advancement while remaining separate from itself. Said insists, through analysis of Conrad, that while imperialism may progress, it does not mean the simultaneous retreat of darkness. Rather. it emphasizes the darkness of imperialism disguised as “mission civilisatrice“, and in opposition, the light that comes from the “darkness” as a culture.