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Marlow’s Metamorphosis in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Marlow’s Metamorphosis in Heart of Darkness


Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, relies on the historical period of imperialism to illuminate its protagonist, Charlie Marlow, and his struggle with two opposite value systems. Marlow undergoes a catharsis during his trip to the Congo and learns of the effects of imperialism. I will analyze Marlow's change, which is caused by his exposure to the imperialistic nature of the historical period in which he lived. Marlow goes to the Congo River to report on Mr. Kurtz, a valuable officer, to their employer. When he sets sail, he does not know what to expect. When his journey is complete, his experiences have changed him forever.

Heart of Darkness is a story of one man's journey through the African Congo and the enlightenment of his soul. Marlow begins his voyage as an ordinary English sailor who is traveling to the African Congo to work. He is an Englishmen through and through. He has never been exposed to any culture similar to the one he will encounter in Africa, and he has no idea about the drastically different culture that exists there. Throughout the book, Conrad, via Marlow's observations, reveals to the reader the naive mentality of Europeans. Marlow also shares this naiveté in the beginning of his voyage. However, after his first few moments in the Congo, he realizes the ignorance he and all his comrades possess. We first recognize the general naiveté of the Europeans when Marlow's aunt sees him for the last time before he embarks on his journey. She assumes that the voyage is a mission of "weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways [. . .]" (line 16). In reality, however, the Europeans are there in the name of imperialism and their sole objective is to earn...


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Johnson, Bruce. “Conrad’s Impressionism and Watt’s “Delayed Decoding.” Conrad Revisited: Essays for the Eighties: 51-70. By Ross C Murfin. University: The Univ. of Alabama, 1985. Rpt. in Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. Ed.

Kimbrough, Robert. 3rd ed. Norton Critical Edition, New York: Norton, 1988.

McLauchlan, Juliet. “The Value and Significance of Heart of Darkness.” Conradia 15 (1983): 3-21. Rpt. in Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. Ed.

Kimbrough, Robert. 3rd ed. Norton Critical Edition, New York: Norton, 1988.

Stewart, Garrett. “Lying as Dying in Heart of Darkness.” PMLA 95 (1980): 319-31. Rpt. in Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. Ed. Kimbrough, Robert. 3rd ed. Norton Critical Edition, New York: Norton, 1988.


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