The Light-dark Metaphor in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

1960 Words 8 Pages
Throughout his narrative in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Charlie Marlow characterizes events, ideas, and locations that he encounters in terms of light or darkness. Embedded in Marlow's parlance is an ongoing metaphor equating light with knowledge and civility and darkness with mystery and savagery. When he begins his narrative, Marlow equates light and, therefore, civility, with reality, believing it to be a tangible expression of man's natural state. Similarly, Marlow uses darkness to depict savagery as a vice having absconded with nature. But as he proceeds deeper into the heart of the African jungle and begins to understand savagery as a primitive form of civilization and, therefore, a reflection on his own reality, …show more content…
In a word, Marlow's delineation of the British imperialists implies that he understands civilization to be logical and rational, while he understands primitive social organizations to be backward and crude.

As Marlow proceeds deeper into the heart of the African jungle and begins to understand savagery as a primitive form of civilization and, therefore, a reflection on his own reality, the light-dark metaphor shifts. For example, when Marlow goes wandering in the jungle, he has contrasting experiences in the sunshine and in the shade that are ironic in light of the established metaphor. Contemplating the colonialists in the jungle, he remarks:

'I've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! These were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men - men, I tell you. But as I stood on the hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly. How insidious he could be, too, I was only to find out several months later.'

That the 'blazing sunlight' would proffer to Marlow the realization that the civilized colonialists were little
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