Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, is a story about Marlow and his journey to explore Africa in 19th century. It displays the role of the women from the author’s point of view by giving the reader a negative image of women through his description. Even though, this novel was written in a time when women are more valuable and noticeable, the author seems to underestimate women’s value. Conrad’s novel can be seen as sexist because of his description of women as non-complex characters as object of male gaze. Heart of darkness is sexist in which the female characters have little or no narrative voice.
Marlow even comments on the right position of women by saying “They-the women, I mean-are out of it-should be out of it. We must help them to stay in their beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse” (Conrad 71). This shows women should stay away and not be heard because they are less important than men. Women have nothing to say or opinion.
Furthermore, the goals or wishes of women are not described or talked about in the novel, as if their wishes or goals have no value compared to the male characters. Even though, these women have influence such as Marlow’s aunt who was helping him with his work to sail up the Congo river . Due to this attitude of disregarding female characters in the novel are not recognized and become shadows.
Additionally, female characters do not have names in the story, and referred to them by their relation to male characters. For example, Kurtz’s Intended, and Marlow’s aunt. Although it could be agreed that the exclusion of female names is not completely prominent when compared with the absence of male names in the novel, yet the fact is, characters who have names are only male. Therefore, the merit of women depends on their relationship with men. Based on the fact that Marlow only considers the name of his ship, it would seem he places more value and respect on something material like a ship rather than on human being of the opposite sex. By naming something or someone means the person puts value on it, that would seem as evidence of a connection between the individual and the object.
By naming his ship, Marlow has shown he has a feeling for it supports him in his travels. However, by not naming the women he associates with, especially his aunt who supports him with work, it shows him not having feelings or gratitude for women. Since Marlow is Conrad’s voice, it is clear that Conrad is a misogynist and the novel is sexist. It does not represent women as truly human beings and does not provide them with names. He portrays them as nothing more than naïve, and delicate.
The author never investigates the female’s behaviors in a detailed manner for they are all minor characters. his novel and his portrayal of his female characters prove Conrad’s low views of women in general.