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 Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a frame narrative which creates a clear and organized structure. This structure helps emphasize upon the hypocrisy of imperialism in the novel and Marlow’s journey to discovering his true identity. The orderly and systematic nature of the structure corresponds with the Company in the novel and how it seems so structured on the outside while their mission is actually extremely chaotic underneath as displayed by Kurtz. The cyclical structure of the novel outlines Marlow’s journey in finding himself and his true identity. As the chaos of the journey is uncovered, Marlow delves deeper and deeper into uncertainty regarding the things going on around him in his life.
Within this context, the powerful are revealed to be untouched by moral considerations in their greedy quest for resources. Towards the end of the novel, Marlow encounters a Russian apologist on behalf of Kurtz, whose actions he recounts "To speak plainly, he (Kurtz) raided the country" and of whom he defends "evidently the appetite for more ivory had got the better of the - what shall I say? - less material aspirations" This serves to symbolise the justification offered by European imperialists for their acts of injustice and exploitation, as represented by Kurtz as an individual. Despite the horrifying discovery of exploitation, Marlow and those around him fail to initiate change to alter the mistreatment of the Congolese and their land. Marlow's growing understanding of the avarice and greed that underpinned colonisation further demonstrates the novella's representation of its total absence of humanity "I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast... The unseen presence of Victoria's corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night..." (81) The motif of dark imagery continues to act as a symbol of the brutal conditions of colonialism. Ultimately, Marlow's final refusal to reveal the truth about Kurtz to the man's fiancé acts to symbolise the culture of denial and collusion that characterised European exploitation. "I could not tell her. It would have been too dark, too dark altogether" Repetition of dark imagery serves to reiterate Marlow and the responder's discovery, of the brutality and corruption that achieves domination over the
In his exile, Marlow experiences alienation, set apart from even his compatriots due to differences in motivation. Marlow is an explorer, journeying through the Congo for the journey’s sake, even noted by the frame narrator as “a seaman, but…a wanderer, too” (Conrad 3). Marlow visits the Congo for enlightenment and adventure, but the other colonists he encounters are present only to profit in the ivory trade. As Marlow frequently says, they are “pilgrims” (Conrad 31), motivated not by faith but by greed as they journey through the Congo in search of ivory. Such a description is incredibly accurate, as it is as though ivory is sacred to these colonists. Describing the Central Station, for example, Marlow remarks, “The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it” (Conrad 20). Frequent mentions of the colonists as pilgrims, in reference to their quest for ivory, serve as a means of distancing Marlow from these men. Marlow’s alienation, thus, is caused in large part by a conscious decision on his behalf. Recognizing the corrupt motivations, and disagreeing with their corresponding methods, behind the colonists, Marlow hopes to separate
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a story about a man named Marlow and his Journey into the African Congo. By reading the novel and understanding all the imagery Conrad has inserted, we can get a better understanding of the
Another great irony in the novel is the attitude Marlow ultimately adopts towards Kurtz. Marlow's beginning impressions from the various reports he has heard about Kurtz are very adverse. Yet, after the events have taken place, Marlow becomes an admirer of Kurtz harboring strong feelings of respect and friendship. The reader would expect Marlow to continue to react to Kurtz in the same adverse manner as the start of the novel, but the opposite occurs. Marlow becomes so attached to Kurtz that he uses all his powers of persuasion to bring Kurtz back to the ship. Marlow then tells the reader that he could “not betray Mr. Kurtz—it was ordered I should never betray him—it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice” (94). Thus Marlow has now become almost a follower of Kurtz knowing the full extent of the evil that prevails in Kurtz. Evidently, Marlow's own primitive instinct have come to the surface resulting in a bond between Kurtz and himself. So another civilized European man who is an embodiment of reason and sanity has fallen victim to the influences of savagery.
The above epitomizes what Marlow thinks about what colonialism really brought to Africa. Some Europeans may have genuinely believed in the idea of colonialism as being noble, but this "belief in the idea" cannot save the horrible actions of colonialism or make them acceptable. Indeed this false belief in an idea, rather then the practicalities of colonialism only aids to brutality of such actions.
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.
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is full of oppositions. The most obvious is the juxtaposition of darkness and light, which are both present from the very beginning, in imagery and in metaphor. The novella is a puzzling mixture of anti-imperialism and racism, civilization and savagery, idealism and nihilism. How can they be reconciled? The final scene, in which Marlow confronts Kurtz's Intended, might be expected to provide resolution. However, it seems, instead, merely to focus the dilemmas in the book, rather than solving them.
The novella, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, is a piece that pushed the envelope of its time due to an oppositional stance on the forced imperialism of primitive and/or impoverished countries. The protagonist of this story is the self-proclaimed explorer, Marlow, who decides to leave the heart of light and purity (Europe) and take a job as a steamboat captain in the dark jungles of the Congo Free State in Africa. Upon his arrival, Marlow begins to see the impact of Belgium’s intrusion on the Congo by means of implementing slavery, commandeering ivory (a valuable resource), and presenting a negative attitude toward the primitive population. Marlow eventually becomes obsessed with an ivory
Inherent inside every human soul is a savage evil side that remains repressed by society. Often this evil side breaks out during times of isolation from our culture, and whenever one culture confronts another. History is loaded with examples of atrocities that have occurred when one culture comes into contact with another. Whenever fundamentally different cultures meet, there is often a fear of contamination and loss of self that leads us to discover more about our true selves, often causing perceived madness by those who have yet to discover their own self. Joseph Conrad’s book, The Heart of Darkness is a story about Man’s journey into his self, the discoveries to be made there and about
Beyond the shield of civilization and into the depths of a primitive, untamed frontier lies the true face of the human soul. It is in the midst of this savagery and unrelenting danger that mankind confronts the brooding nature of his inner self. Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, is the story of one man's insight into life as he embarks on a voyage to the edges of the world. Here, he meets the bitter, yet enlightening forces that eventually shape his outlook on life and his own individuality. Conrad’s portrayal of the characters, setting, and symbols, allow the reader to reflect on the true nature of man.
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.
The European mind at the fringes of "civilisation," when confronted with this Otherness, cannot settle on one or the other of these alternatives. "European reactions to other cultures tend to oscillate between these two poles, and thus the same culture can seem simple, authentic, concrete, or, on the other hand, odd, uncanny, and arbitrary" (ibid.). While this paradigm of shifting viewpoints is exemplified by Marlow in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, it seems to find its resolution in Sigmund Freud's assertion that in many ways the modern man is the primitive man.
Kurtz was a personal embodiment, a dramatization, of all that Conrad felt of futility, degradation, and horror in what the Europeans in the Congo called 'progress,' which meant the exploitation of the natives by every variety of cruelty and treachery known to greedy man. Kurtz was to Marlow, penetrating this country, a name, constantly recurring in people's talk, for cleverness and enterprise. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a portrait of the degeneration of the ideal of Kurtz symbolizing the degeneration of the ideal of colonialism as 'civilizing work'.