Heart Of Darkness Critical Analysis

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The legacy of Heart of Darkness is credited more to Joseph Conrad’s ensnaring form than his message. Readers enamored with the first few pages of “ still and exquisite brilliance” as an unnamed Narrator drifts down the Thames at the helm of a yacht are unceremoniously thrust into a framed narrative of a man who ventures in and out of the heart of the Congo (Conrad 4). Marlow begins his tale by suggesting that England too, was once a dark place to be conquered. “The conquest of the earth is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” He reflects, “ What redeems it is the idea only, and an unselfish belief in the idea- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer sacrifice to.” (Conrad 7). At once condemning conquest…show more content…
The role of women as icons in Heart of Darkness is well recognized. In her essay “Iconography and the Feminine Ideal”, Lissa Schneider is one of many critics to identify that the women Conrad depicts are not people but figures that “serve a larger representative function”. Of these icons, Schneider first focuses on a small oil sketch, found when Marlow is leaving the house of the Manager depicting a woman “draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch.”. Her figure is painted on a sombre black background, and Marlow perceives that the torchlight on her face has a sinister effect (Conrad 25). Although the woman’s identity in the painting is unknown, the figure holds resemblance to the fiance of the artist, Kurtz’s Intended. Schneider goes on to use this image as an example of women’s roles as “weapons of dominance” within Conrad’s writing as a whole. While this interpretation is valid, when investigated from an intratextual perspective, the representative function of the woman in the painting becomes more nuanced.
Despite his reference to a redeeming idea behind colonialism before the start of Marlow’s narration, up until this point Conrad has neglected to reveal any characters or images that might brighten the dismal and corrupted world of the British Ivory Trade. However, with the description of this portrait Marlow’s statement of a “redeeming idea” gains some clarity. The depiction of a
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