Cultural Differences in Kipling’s and Conrad’s Novels

The Disregard for Local Cultures in "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Heart of Darkness"

The major protagonists in both Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King" and Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" have little regard for the local cultures.

Kipling's novel depicts Dravot and Carnehan's travels in India. The two Brits are outcasts in British society and attempt to fit in with Indian society.

Conrad's novel revolves around Marlow, a sailor who witnesses the brutality of European companies that exploited Africans in Central Africa. Marlow, Kurtz's guest in Central Africa, thinks the natives are barbaric. He seems to support his host’s actions to impose their culture on the locals while killing those who resist.

The main characters in both stories felt that the events and people within the new cultures were disorganized and confused. "Everything else in the station was in a muddle -- heads, things, buildings. Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the …" (Copnrad 83). This quote shows that the narrator felt that the locals in Central Africa had an inferior culture and ways of doing things compared to what he had experienced in his country of origin.

In Kipling’s book, the two main characters feel superior to the locals. They are confident that they will take over local kingdoms despite being misfits back in Britain. At one time, the locals approached them to know if they are gods. Peachy Carnehan replied by denying that they were Englishmen and not gods, he then added that Englishmen were the next best thing. They also felt that the locals were not civilized. "Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We're going to teach you soldiering. The world's noblest profession. When we're done with you, you'll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men." (Kipling 89).

In both readings, the foreigners feel that the local cultures are disdain and go ahead to impose their civilizations on the locals. However, at some point, Conrad’s story presents African culture with respect, especially from the Marlow’s perspective.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of darkness." Heart of darkness. Palgrave Macmillan US, 1996.

Kipling, Rudyard. The man who would be king: and other stories. Oxford Paperbacks, 1999.

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