Allegorical Meanings of the Journey Depicted in Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness

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For decades, Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness has been appreciated, studied, and speculated upon. Indeed, as a work of literature, the novella can be considered as one of the finest of the modern era not only because of it aesthetic value but also due to its underlying meanings. Many have speculated as to what the whole story means, what the characters, objects, and events represent, and what message the story is conveying. In the tradition of analyzing stories, this paper holds that the Marlow’s voyage to retrieve Kurtz is not a voyage per se but acts as an allegory to three journeys: one journey towards hell, another towards back in time, and lastly as a voyage towards one’s own psyche. Why is Marlow’s mission, or the ship’s voyage…show more content…
However, the setting is not the only element that bespeaks of hell but rather is just a part of it. Perhaps a second, deeper hell in the voyage is the contrast in the setting between the conquerors and the conquered. In the jungle, where authority is absent, men are left to their own devices and are at liberty to do as they please. This is exemplified by the white man’s exploitation of the natives and their use of technology and power to drain the country of its riches. In a way, Marlow’s journey exposes him to a land where laws rarely exist, where imperialism reveals its darks side, and where men trample upon others just as they trample on the basic laws that govern social equality. But aside from signifying a journey towards hell, Marlow’s voyage is easily a trip back in time. As stated earlier, the Heart of Darkness features Africa as it looked during the late 19th century. Despite being under one empire, Britain and Africa are utterly different in almost every aspect. Marlow and his companions come from Britain which is characterized by burgeoning wealth, expanding urbanization, and continuous industrial growth. Adding to these are the empire’s large overseas territorial holdings and its position as a principal power among the nations. Being accustomed to such a setting, it is no wonder that for Marlow and the others, the voyage up the Congo River is similar to seeing the world during the stage that is untouched by civilization and

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