Light And Darkness In Heart Of Darkness

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Light and dark are generally juxtaposed to highlight the maleficent and the beneficent. Alternatively, in both Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, light and dark symbolism is used to convey that an outward appearance can conflict with what is lying underneath. Conrad shows that greed can be hidden under seemingly good intentions, and Trethewey shows that physical traits do not tell one’s whole story.
In the novella Heart of Darkness, Conrad uses light and dark to represent life and death. Although the Europeans believe they are bringing light and life to the Congo, in reality, they are bringing darkness and death. Sometimes one’s real intentions can be eclipsed by their actions. While Marlow is in the Congo, he witnesses disturbing sights. For example, one of the first things Marlow sees in the Congo is a few natives “dying slowly” with looks of pain and despair while leaning against trees (Conrad 19). Even with this, Marlow is generally unaffected and focuses more on the landscape than the people dying. In order to disassociate from the bad, Marlow tends to focus on unimportant details, which plays into how the evil, underlying motives of colonization can be masked. A critique of Heart of Darkness describes this phenomenon as the “enlightened façade” the Company has for the general public to continue imperialism (Allingham). It is easier for everyone to accept that the Company is improving the Congo rather than looking deeper and seeing
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