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Ivory in the Heart of Darkness

It's gonna be Tusks of fun!
by

Riley Woods

on 14 November 2012

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Transcript of Ivory in the Heart of Darkness

What is Ivory? Ivory is the white or creamy yellow substance that makes up the tusks of various animals; mainly African Elephants. These tusks are used for various purposes and are often obtained illegally. The Ivory trade has been a lucrative business for years and has served various profitable and religious purposes. Rapacious: Definition: inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate by Colton Streufert and Riley Woods Relationship to the Jungle: The Role of Ivory in "Heart of Darkness" Relationship to Kurtz: To Kurtz, Ivory is more than just an object. It's his obsession and his motivation to be such a successful manager. Ivory contributes to his rise to power because he procures so much more than all the other managers. Many of those in power in the jungle are jealous of his success because of his efficiency.

"Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the true ivory country, at 'the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together..." (74) Ivory is a resource that the jungle provides, and is the reason the white man is ravaging the jungle. Ivory is the driving force behind the denaturalization of the jungle. This problem still persists today, as the practice of trading Ivory still exists. Ivory as a symbol of greed: "The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it." (80) Criticism One reason that is suggested by Sid Ray, is that Kurtz really obtains all of his Ivory through his African Mistress who has already monopolized it. "This character who wears "brass leggings" and carried "the value of several elephant tusks upon her" has assessed the value of what she controls (Heart 60). Like Marlowe's Dido who promises Aeneas "more wealth / Than twenty thousand Indias can afford," she knows that the Europeans are in Africa to plunder its resources and, accordingly, she too has commodified the ivory." (Marlow's Africa) "The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading post where ivory was to be had, so they could earn percentages. They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only on that account." (82) Ivory is the only motive for everyone working in the jungle, and it consumes them, causing them to abandon their morals. "Evidently the appetite for more ivory has got the better of the - what shall I say? - less material aspirations." (127) "The wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball -- an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and -- lo! -- he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered favourite. 'My ivory.' Oh, yes, I heard him. 'My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my - ' everything belonged to him." (115) Key Questions: Under what circumstances are people willing to abandon their humanity out of greed? Bibliography Marlow(e)'s Africa: postcolonial queenship in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage. Sid Ray. Conradiana. 38.2 (Summer 2006) p143. Word Count: 7690. From Literature Resource Center. How powerful is the element of greed in all of us? For what are we greedy for? How has the Ivory trade impacted the wildlife of the jungle along with the environment itself? Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Signet, 2008. Print
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