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Ambiguities Explored in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essays

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Ambiguities Explored in Heart of Darkness


    Literature is never interpreted in exactly the same way by two different readers. A prime example of a work of literature that is very ambiguous is Joseph Conrad's, "Heart of Darkness". The Ambiguities that exist in this book are Marlow's relationship to colonialism, Marlow's changing feelings toward Kurtz, and Marlow's lie to the Intended at the end of the story.

 

One interpretation of Marlow's relationship to colonialism is that he does not support it. Conrad writes, "They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now,-nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom" (p. 27-28). Marlow says this and is stressing that the so-called "savages", or Africans, are being treated and punished like they are criminals or enemies when in fact they never did anything. He observes the slow torture of these people and is disgusted with it. Marlow feels sympathy for the black people being slaved around by the Europeans but doesn't do anything to change it because that is the way things are. One can see the sympathy by the way that he gives a starving black man one of his biscuits. "To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe" (p. 54). This statement by Marlow conveys that he doesn't believe that the Europeans have a right to be stripping Africa of its riches. He views the Jungles of Africa as almost it's own living, breathing monster.

 

It is evident that Marlow is one of the few white men on the journey that questions the belief at the time that the natives of Africa are "inhu...


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...ch open up the readers mind. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", raises many questions about society and the human potential for evil.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

 

 

Conrad, Joseph.  Heart of Darkness 3rd Ed.  Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York:  Norton Critical, 1988.

 

Edward W. Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983) 13.

 

Hillman, James. "Notes on White Supremacy: Essaying an Archetypal Account of Historical Events," Spring (1986): 29-57.

 

McLynn, Frank. Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa. New York: Carol & Gey, 1992.

 

Meyers, Jeffrey.  Joseph Conrad.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991.

 

Patrick Brantlinger, "Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism?" Criticism (Fall, 1985) 364. 

 


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