This thesis explores themes of influence and resistance to imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. To contextualize the feminine control and resistance of imperialism and colonialism, the thesis first examines Marlow’s and Kurt’s roles as agents and representatives of the Company, and thereby reveals their complicity in the brutalities carried out against the native people of the Congo. Additionally, it compares the vivid descriptions of violence inherent in imperialist domination with the vaguer characterization of violence among the tribespeople. Finally, by examining relationships between male and female characters as well as the ideals of the Anglo/American New Woman, this thesis demonstrates that female European characters, like Marlow’s aunt and Kurtz’s Intended, control and manipulate their male counterparts, while female African characters, like Kurtz’s mistress and the accountant’s laundress, represent a silent resistance to imperialist domination and violence.

Date of publication

Spring 5-11-2020

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Carolyn Tilghman, Hui Wu, Catherine Ross


Master of Arts in English