In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad reverses the tradition by using the color of white as a symbol for darkness and mystery. Although some critics have viewed him as a racist, Conrad used the color white as a symbol of evil throughout the story to tell the readers of the white man's power hunger and corruption in the colonized Africa. Symbols that associate with the color white do not mean purity and holiness; instead, white represents the power, corruption, and downfall of man. .
Even a white lie, which does not harm another person, has the intention of preserving evil. Marlow's tells a white lie to the intended because he, over time, respects Kurtz and does not want to disdain his strong character- his character of evil, power-hungry driven madness. Every human has dark sides, and Marlow is fascinated in his discovery of his own dark side. Marlow chooses to stays loyal to his nightmare by denying its existence and identity.
Like Marlow, white men who have come to Africa with hopes of spreading white light and white civilization to the darkness find the only darkness of their hearts. Conrad shows that these "pilgrims" (129) lose focus and become obsessed with greed; profits from the slave business and ivory trade have madly blinded these white men into darkness. Ironically, the blacks are with less darkness and evil. These hard and honest natives have no choice but to obey whites until they are used up and dead. .
Death silently turns everything white. Marlow encounters dying African natives being killed by the "enlightened" white Europeans: "They were dying slowly-it was clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confused in the greenish gloom" (83). The white, rotten bones and skeletons are the proof of the white man's power over the blacks. Kurtz even posts skulls facing his station house to show his personal power.