Joseph Conrad as an imperialist and antiimperialist

Question: Discuss Joseph Conrad as an imperialist and anti-imperialist with reference to “Introduction to Culture and Imperialism.”Joseph Conrad as an imperialist and antiimperialist with reference to Introduction to Culture and Imperialism.


It is internationally accepted that Joseph Conrad is an anti-imperialist for the thematic value of his novels and his treatment of imperialism in his illustrious novels proves him anti-imperialist from a surface perspective. But for the first in the history of English literary criticism, Edward W. Said (1935-2003) has probed into deep of Conrad’s treatment of imperialism and has been able to disclose him as imperialist and anti-imperialist simultaneously.

Said’s thesis about novels

Said in his collection of essays “Introduction to Culture and Imperialism” asserts that novels have two-fold meanings. English novels are the source of learning about culture from a primary perspective but they are the idea bearer for the expansion of imperialism. Said’s deep analysis of Conrad’s novels is out and out different since Conrad is the new ideologist for expanding colonialism based on criticizing the gigantic power for the purpose of proliferating concerns.

Conrad’s prescience

Said argues that Conrad has deep insight or prescience about native and imperialism. In his famous novel “Nostromo”, which is the second example of Mr. Said, Conrad forecasts or foretells the unstoppable unrest and misrule of American republics. He also defines the people in the following way.

“Governing them is like plowing the sea”

Here he is different from his earlier fictions as to African and East Asian colonial settings because he means to announce or single out a decisive way to dominate the republics for the “immense silver mine”. So, this short line is sufficient enough to make the imperialists conscious to invent a sea-like vast decisive way.

The precursor of the Western views

According to Said, Conrad is the pioneer or precursor of Western views of the third world. By dint of his creative generosity, he has asserted that anti-imperialistic oppositions were corrupted and they paved the way forever-lasting imperialism. Such pioneering views make him nothing but a brave supporter of imperialism.

Paternalistic arrogance of imperialism

This is really a pioneering technique of Conrad to illustrate the role of imperialism in front of the world that imperialism is a system to rectify the savages. His novel embodies the paternalistic arrogance to mock the characters but at the same time he is seemed to saying:

“We Westerners will decide who is a good native or a bad

because all natives have sufficient existence by virtue of our recognition”

Thus, he has eternalized imperialism by providing legal power to identify a nation good or bad. What a technique he has occupied!

Anti-imperialistic irony in “Nostromo”

Mr. Said believes that Conrad is certainly the first fiction writer who criticizes the corruption and brutality of the imperialists in his fictions. In this very novel, he argues that the Westerners are the significant action taker of life and the mind deadened the third world cannot think about politics and the taste of independence without them. Therefore, Conrad advocates that the imperialists are immoral somehow but a seeder of democracy. So, he is imperialist on the one side of a coin and anti-imperialist on the other side of the same coin.

Comprehension of foreign cultures

Conrad who is the first and foremost intellectual in the galaxy of English fiction understands well foreign cultures. His such speculation forces the native to accept him as their benefactor but indirectly he is the messenger of imperialism. His evaluation of the political will of the native is strong evidence of his two-fold snakes-like role in accordance with the critics and analysts.

“What is perhaps more relevant is the political willingness to take seriously

alternative to imperialism, among them the existence of other cultures and imperialism”.


We can conclude by quoting Edward Said “To the extent that we see Conrad both criticizing and reproducing the imperial ideology of his time”. So, it is undoubtedly transparent that Conrad is the imperialist and anti-imperialist with sympathy and taunt.

Click here: For all the notes of Literary Criticism

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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