The Moral Complexity In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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What makes Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness more than the run of the mill adventure tale, is its moral complexity. By the end of the novel, we find a protagonist who has immense appreciation for a man who lacks honest redemption, the mysterious Mr. Kurtz. It is the literal vivaciousness and unyielding spirit of this man, his pure intentionality, which Marlow finds so entrancing and which leaves the reader with larger questions regarding the human capacity. Therefore, Heart of Darkness is profoundly different given its character complexity and ambiguous narrative technique which ultimately deliver home a message of the complex motivations and capabilities of mankind. In “Marlow’s Quest,” Jerome Thale writes that Heart of Darkness has all the “trappings of the conventional adventure tale” and that the protagonist, Marlow, is “like a knight seeking the grail, and his journey even to the end follows the archetype” (Thale 176). Indeed, Conrad’s novel meets these tropes and fits this pattern, however, such a reading only meets the novel at its most superficial level and even Thale goes on to note the deeper complexity within Marlow’s quest. The archetype of the adventure novel is the template from which Conrad works from. He builds his premise on “the hero’s journey,” which Joseph Campbell defines as:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back
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