Light and Dark in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Light and Dark in Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, was written to explore the soul of man. If the book is viewed only superficially, a tragic story of the African jungle is seen, but when examined closely, a deeper meaning arises. Through his narrator Marlow, Conrad uses the theme of light and dark to contrast the civilized with the savage.

Through the individual characters, Conrad creates the division between dark and light and black and white created by colonialism. Marlow and Kurtz can be as two halves of one soul. Throughout the tale, Marlow is disgusted with what he sees during his employment with the ivory company. He is shocked and angered at the horrible treatment of the
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Marlow also witnesses black workers in chain-gangs throughout his journey up the river, along with a black man shot dead in the middle of the road and the beating of another black man accused of setting a fire in the supplies shed. Later, the manager orders the willful starvation of the cannibals of the crew. The meat the cannibals brought with them rotted and, although they were paid enough to buy food, the manager refused to stop along the way up the river for the cannibals to buy anything to eat. Finally, once they reach Kurtz, the manager sends men toward the compound heavily armed. He is solely concerned with the safe confiscation of the ivory and not at all with Kurtz' life. Subsequently, the manager goes to great lengths to guard the ivory while Kurtz is not: a makeshift curtain is all that separates Kurtz from the rest of the crew. Though all of these acts, the character of the manager displays the absolute darkness of the ivory company.

Further atrocities committed by colonizing companies are shown through the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, based on an actual expedition - the Katanga Expedition of 1890. The expedition exposes more materialistic stupidity of such missions and also represents the reckless pirating colonizers, "greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage (Conrad, 27)." Just as in the
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