57 pages 1 hour read

Joseph Conrad

An Outpost Of Progress

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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The Hypocrisy of Western Colonialism

In many ways, “An Outpost of Progress” can be approached as a period piece, which is a story whose incendiary thematic argument would both appeal to and anger those of his own era. For most of the 19th century, white Europeans’ goal of civilizing the backwards countries of both Africa and Asia had created a concept of competing global empires in which these same white Europeans casually redrew the maps of these continents in their attempt to lay claim to these countries and colonize them primarily to develop their lucrative resources for much-needed raw foods and minerals. In the process, the argument followed, these same people would be blessed with the introduction of Western ways—its religion, arts, political structures, even languages. By contemporary standards that seek to respect diversity and explore the complicated dimensions of other cultures, the story reveals how gloriously ironic the entire enterprise became, collapsing of its own irony.

Here the two representatives of Western civilization are incompetent, lazy, and poorly trained. They are caricatures—each defined by their exaggerated physical size, one tall and thin, the other short and overweight. They hardly bring the locals a revitalizing sense of civilization or culture.

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By Joseph Conrad