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Oppositions in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Oppositions in Heart of Darkness

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.

Throughout the first part of his interview with Kurtz's Intended, Marlow talks about saving her from the darkness:

"Yes, I know," I said
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No one can deal with the complete unadorned truth, not even men. Kurtz entered the jungle with illusions of civilizing the natives; later, when he realizes what has actually happened and exclaims, "The horror! The horror!" he dies (86). The disillusionment kills him. Marlow, also, loses some illusions; however, he manages to create some others for himself, like the idea that he does not need illusions after all. This is how he manages to survive.

The question of justice is crucial. During the final scene of his narrative, Marlow reflects on Kurtz, remembering what Kurtz had said:

"This lot of ivory now is really mine. The Company did not pay for it. I collected it myself at a very great personal risk. I am afraid they will try to claim it as theirs though.... I want no more than justice." ... He wanted no more than justice-no more than justice. (91)

Kurtz only means justice for himself; he does not consider justice for the Congolese from whom he took ivory "at very great personal risk" or for the Company by whom he is employed. However Kurtz meant it, Marlow, in repeating it, assuredly perceives the irony in the statement. Kurtz wanted justice in his possessions, but the jungle took its own kind of justice, by destroying him. Even more ironically, his death even renders irrelevant the human justice Kurtz desired. This begs
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