In the Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad suggests that when removed from civilization and unrestrained, people succumb to the evil in human nature and regress into savagery. Charlie Marlow, the protagonist of the story, ventures out into the depths of Africa, eager to explore its unknown territories. Despite hoping for success, Marlow learns of the horrors that lie behind the curtain of civilization. Throughout the novel, the author presents this main idea with certain elements of fiction. A key scene that portrays the theme of the story occurs when Marlow follows Kurtz’s path from his steamboat into the wilderness. Kurtz, who represents the result of unchecked ambitions, recalls his experience in the wilderness, and readers learn of his character prior to his downfall. This scene displays the main idea using the author’s style, the point of view, and the characterization of Kurtz.
Edward Said, author of “Two Visions in the Heart of Darkness”, provides commentary on the work of Conrad exclaiming that Conrad provided readers a sense of humanity to the inhumane treatments regarding colonization by European powers. Said understands that the primary theme of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness lies in the dissonance of culture and purpose of these African citizens as a result of imperialism.
Greed exists at the centre of evil on not only an individual level, but also that of a communal and global level. Contextually there is a superficial alteration in the stimulus (Ivory vs. diamond) for greed and of global awareness towards the issue, although in the century that separates Joseph Conrad’s exploration of colonial regime in his novella Heart of Darkness and Edward Zwick’s post-colonial film Blood Diamond, the values driving the major characters and factions from the different texts are comparably similar.
In the book, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, all the characters are pulled into a well of black despair. Conrad uses the darkness of the situation contrasted to the light of society to show man’s dependence on western morals, and how when these morals are challenged by the darkness, the light crumbles under its newly weakened foundation. The contrast between light and dark is most stark in the themes of setting, the changes in Europeans as they drive farther into the Congo, and the white man’s collapse under the ultimate darkness of the Innermost Congo.
Kurtz, who has an obsession to power is included in the novella by Conrad to symbolize the greediness for ivory and the immoral values of the Europeans. Initially, Kurtz was out to explore and actually benefit the natives, but that changes when he becomes powerful. Eventually, Kurtz makes it obvious that he is out for one thing, and that is ivory. Unlike the Company, he actually displays his greediness for ivory by threatening his own employees. Kurtz “[declares] he would shoot [the harlequin] unless [he] gave him the ivory” and then commands him to leave the country (126). This presents how he utilizes force to achieve his goals. Kurtz represents the unconcealed avarice of the Company. Kurtz is also another one of the characters that knows that he is harming others, but still desires to get as much ivory as he can. Ivory “was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were
Joseph Conrad 's Heart of Darkness is both a dramatic tale of an arduous trek into the Belgian Congo at the turn of the twentieth century and a symbolic journey into the deepest recesses of human nature. On a literal level, through Marlow 's narration, Conrad provides a searing indictment of European colonial exploitation inflicted upon African natives. By employing several allegoric symbols this account depicts the futility of the European presence in Africa.
The standard in the Victorian era was the men were far away, while the women were morally supportive, but oblivious to the reality of the man’s work, although they economically benefitted from it. This proves the way power corrupts because Kurtz abused the opportunities given after falling from the edge of moral standards, even after his Intended attempts to show him the way. In 1902, when Conrad wrote the book, it was common to base culture off of superiority, therefore it was seen that Kurtz was in the Congo for the redemption of natives. In the text, Joseph Conrad gives much respect to the native tribes, Mr. Kurtz, however, has none. “Exterminate all brutes!” (Conrad 50) he says, claiming that if he cannot change the natives, they should be thrown out. He, and many people like him, introduced new cultures to societies that did not want it. The corruption of the spirituality found in some cultures is thus caused by the hunger for power from interference from separate societies.
“Oh, propriety...We’re always so concerned with propriety. Even in total madness, we will stick to our hierarchies and chains of command.” This concept--human concern with fitting societal standards and hierarchies--is a clear theme in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Even as ivory transporter Charles Marlow journeys into Central Africa, a land described as “mad” and “savage”, those around him remain primarily interested in maintaining a set image and social standards, a strange concept amidst such perceived “madness”. This obsession with propriety in Heart of Darkness is seen through the anomalous character development of both Kurtz and Marlow, and the Company’s response. Overall, this contributes to a larger meaning explored by the novel--the question of good and evil and whether or not the two are truly distinguishable.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has allowed me to view the world through a multitude of new lenses. In seeing Kurtz and Marlow’s disintegration when removed from society’s watchful eye, I began to understand that all people have a streak of darkness in them under the right circumstances. While the narrator, and many readers at the time of this novella’s publication, believed that the African natives being colonized were “savages”, this book sheds light on the true brutes in this scenario: the thoughtless Europeans. The other complexity that I never truly understood until reading this book, is the idea that there is a single story told about Africans in Western literature. Africa is portrayed as weak, primitive, and impoverished in most books
Both Kingsolver and Conrad use similar story construction and point of view in these texts. The truly pivotal characters in each text, rather than the narrators, are the mostly unspoken antagonists of the story. In Heart of Darkness, the story is centered on Kurtz and his actions involving the Congo. The true focus of the novella lies not with Marlow, but rather Conrad uses Marlow as a medium in order to examine Kurtz. In the novella, Marlow is an outside observer. The story follows Marlow’s ever-changing perception of Kurtz in order to characterize the unseen character. When Marlow first learns of Kurtz, he is told that he is “a remarkable person…a prodigy” (Conrad 69), but as the story progresses, both Marlow and the reader delve into Kurtz’s true character and discover a tyrant of imperialism.
In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad suggest that true human existence cannot prevail productively without the dynamics of society. Throughout numerous scenes in the novel, Conrad stresses the necessity of societal restraints through Kurtz’s inability to prosper as a human being when he is removed from the expectations of civilization. In the scene above, Marlow’s myopic observations of Kurtz reveals Conrad’s theme by illustrating the annihilation of Kurtz’s essential human characteristics as he descends into a barbaric lifestyle absent of the norms of society. Not only does the above scene support Conrad’s main theme, but it portrays his writing style, characterization of Marlow, and symbolism as used throughout the novel.
In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the imperialism of Africa is described. Conrad tells the story of the cruel treatment of the natives and of the imperialism of the Congo region through the perspective of the main character, Marlow. Throughout the novel, Marlow describes how the Europeans continuously bestow poor treatment to the native people by enslaving them in their own territory. Analyzing the story with the New Criticism lens, it is evident that Conrad incorporates numerous literary devices in Heart of Darkness, including similes, imagery, personification, and antitheses to describe and exemplify the main idea of cruel imperialism in Africa discussed throughout the novella.
Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, was written in 1899, near the end of the imperialism of Africa. Far from European civilization, the imperialists are without rules and ransacking Africa in search ivory and glory. One of the most significant themes in Heart of Darkness is the psychological issues catalyzed by the lawlessness of the jungle. Due to the breakdown of societal convention, the characters of Heart of Darkness are exposed to not only the corruption of imperialism, but the sickness of their minds.
In Joseph Conrad’s book, Heart of Darkness, the globe is imagined as one where there are those that are civilized and those that are considered “savages” and “barbarians” by the civilized people. These civilized people are the Europeans, and the so-called “savages” are the African slaves.
Imperialism and its oppressive processes have affected societies as well as individual lives for centuries. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, oppression through imperialism demonstrates how a certain civilization, the Congolese, is affected negatively by imperialism. By focusing on Africa, it allows for a graphic recount of the many years spent reigned by foreign oppressors and tyrannies. In Heart of Darkness, the Congo is oppressed by the imperialists economically and geographically. As well, the oppressed people are taken advantage of spiritually. Conrad describes how the ruling tyrant is affected by the process of conquering a local people and this draws a parallel to the ruling empire. Conrad, through his novel, attempts to