Light vs. Dark in Heart of Darkness Essay

1268 Words 6 Pages
Light vs. Dark in Heart of Darkness

The realism movement of the late nineteenth century produced works in literature that were marked by reduced sentimentality and increased objectivity. The goal was to let details tell the story, and remove noticeable bias of the author through scientific and detailed descriptions. While this form of storytelling undoubtedly is most accurate, it creates difficulties for authors to incorporate their themes into the story. This resulted in an increase in symbolism in realist works. The objects and descriptions within the story are the author’s vehicle for displaying the values and themes of the work. Light and darkness are symbols commonly used in literature, and have held specific symbolic
…show more content…
One of the biggest ways he contrast’s the two is in physical locations themselves.

Conrad uses light as a symbol of civilization. Just as darkness is defined as the absence of light, the black jungle represents the absence of white man’s civilization - a civilization marked by corruption and evil. Conrad’s description of Brussels in part one is an example of how he uses detail to convey deeper meaning. “In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always made me think of a white sepulcher.” (953) It is significant that Conrad describes the building Marlow departs from as a white coffin, because the offices in that building are driven by greed and their job is sending men out to their almost certain deaths. The white men in the white town send sailors in search of their white prize, ivory. This cycle of evil begins and ends in this town. Describing the town as white is deceptive, because the town itself possesses an ominous feeling of death. This symbolizes the deception of all the sailors who come to this town in hopes of finding fortune and are sent to their deaths. Conrad makes it clear that this is a deception not found in the darkness of the jungle. When Marlow approaches dying slaves in the darkness of a shaded cove, he states: “They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, - nothing but black
Open Document