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

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Light and Dark in Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's repeated use of darkness in his novel Heart of Darkness has been widely interpreted. Readers have arrived at many different conclusions about the use of darkness throughout the novel. The critics themselves cannot agree what the darkness means.

The critics draw different conclusions about the use of darkness. For some critics, the use of darkness is seen as an intentional literary device. For example, Gary Adelman and Michael Levenson discuss the use of darkness and comment upon Conrad's purpose. Gary Adelman suggests that Conrad used darkness as a means to tie together various elements of the novel. Adelman says, "the most elaborate of Conrad's devices for
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When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he is faced with a "shocking revelation" (87) writes Adelman; "that the darkness . . . is not African, but European" (87).

While Adelman talks about darkness and how it links many elements of the novel together, Michael Levenson concludes that Conrad chose to use darkness throughout the novel because of the sense it conveyed to the reader. Levenson sees darkness as the "perfect moral term" (404), conjuring up a certain impression that is conveyed from beginning to end of the story. As the story unfolds, the reader is meant to associate darkness with facts and values. Levenson reasons that the "transitions" (404) from one scene to another are almost "seamless" (404) as a result of the way in which Conrad uses words like darkness and gloom and what those words come to mean to the reader. To illustrate his point, he talks about "the transitions from the literal gloom of the African jungle to Kurtz's gloomy horror . . . from the black bank of clouds above the Thames to the heart of darkness" (404). They appear seamless, says Levenson "because this darkness is a metaphor which so reliably links facts and values" (405). He then points out that because of its associations and the frequency with which it is used, the word darkness "scarcely seems a figure of speech at all" (405). According to Levenson, this works to Conrad's advantage. He suggests that, as long as there is a strong association in the reader's mind between darkness
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