"the splashing, thumping, fierce river-demon"
Troops landing at Yambuya (c. 1890)
Public DomainTroops landing at Yambuya (c. 1890) - Credit: Maurice Culot and Jean-Marie Thiveaud

Marlow’s ‘fierce river-demon’ can be read as a familiar trope used to suggest ‘primitive’ animistic interpretations of European technology, but it may be closer to the truth than Marlow realises. The steamboat played an instrumental role in the colonisation of the Congo: it both opened up the African interior to European commercial exploitation and brought to the African people slavery, persecution and the destruction of their traditional way of life.