Self-absorption in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness


Length: 1097 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document
Need writing help? Check your paper »

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓
Self-absorption in Heart of Darkness  

  

The story Heart of Darkness is a study in the benefits , and

setbacks, of self absorption. Through out the story there is a constant

emphasis on the fact that self absorption will get you what you want and

help you to survive. At the same time there is the constant moral objection.

Almost the entire book is spent showing the positive aspects of self

absorption. The life it will give you and the ability to keep that life

going as long as possible. This type of thinking, however, can catch up to

you in the end.

 

The lesson that self absorption is the means of self preservation is

one that is taught to the reader, and more specifically to Marlow, gradually

as the story progresses. The very first lesson in this thought process comes

very early in the story. I occurs as Marlow is going over in his mind

exactly how he came to get the opportunity to be a river steamer captain.

It appears the Company had received news that one of their captains

had been killed in a scuffle with the natives. This was my

chance, and it made me the more anxious to go...However,

through this glorious affair I got my appointment,

before I had fairly begun to hope for it.(Conrad 13)

 

Right away Marlow begins to think about himself and what this mans death can

bring to him. He describes the incident, and every now and then throws in a

"The poor fellow" so that he is not completely devoid of any compassion.

This is Marlow's introduction into the way of the successful person in the

Ivory trade, or any business for that matter.

 

The next lesson that Marlow gets in self absorption he actually has

provided for him. As he is riding the french ship down to the belgian congo

there are several stops made to let off soldiers at various posts up and

down the shore.

 

We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-

house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness,

with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers to take care

of the custom-house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in

the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed

particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Self-absorption in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Dec 2017
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=7953>.
Title Length Color Rating  
Essay about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent: A Critique of Late-Victorian Gender Roles February 15, 1894, was the most interesting afternoon in the otherwise dreary history of Greenwich Observatory. Earlier in the day, Martial Bourdin, a skinny anarchist, traveled by train from Westminster to Greenwich, concealing a small bomb. As he ominously ambled through Greenwich Park, towards the Observatory, something happened - no one knows exactly what - and he blew most of himself to shreds. The British, who loved to quantify in the late nineteenth century, noted that the explosion spread bits of flesh over a distance of sixty yards....   [tags: Joseph Conrad The Secret Agent]
:: 20 Works Cited
4961 words
(14.2 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” “ In order to live with direction and an understanding of what is going on around you, one must understand and know what goes on inside himself.” - William Page In Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”, the Captain of the vessel finds that he does not know himself as well as he thinks. It is not until a castaway, Leggatt, arrives that the captain finally achieves a level of self understanding and completion. Leggatt serves as the Captain’s complimenting double, and his actions and thoughts eventually help the captain learn about himself and create stronger character....   [tags: The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad] 1479 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about Youth by Joseph Conrad - Youth by Joseph Conrad This analysis is based on the short story “Youth” by Joseph Conrad, in which involves the explanation of youth in relation to life. The story presents the theme that youth is somehow disillusioning. During the plot progression, it shows the perceptions and thinking of the main character, Marlow, who is a young ship's officer fascinated by the air of adventure and romance of the exotic East. The main themes describe some aspect of human life and behaviour, some of which are idealism versus realism, survival and the trials and tribulations that are encountered through life....   [tags: Youth Joseph Conrad Essays] 494 words
(1.4 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay - Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness" written in 1902 is an overwhelming chronicle of Marlow's journey into the heart of the African continent. It is one of the most influential novels of the twentieth century. In this ghastly and horrific tale, Marlow leads an expedition up the Congo River, only to find everything is not as it seems. This haunting and mysterious story takes him into the unbearable core of the jungle. The novel also explores trade and exploration, imperialism and colonization....   [tags: Heart Darkness Joseph Conrad Essays] 755 words
(2.2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad When Joseph Conrad composed Heart of Darkness he created a literary masterpiece which embodied the essence of light contrasting with darkness. Throughout the novel Conrad constantly utilizes the images of light and dark and uses them to mold a vision, which the reader is then able to use to decipher the literal and metaphorical meanings of the novel. As Conrad said, “ my task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel- it is, before all, to make you see.” (Crankshaw 34) In Heart of Darkness Conrad makes the reader “see” by absorbing into every aspect possible of the book images of lightn...   [tags: Joseph Conrad Novels Literature Essays] 4388 words
(12.5 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay on The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Marlow, an ordinary sailor with idealistic dreams, goes on a dark yet fascinating journey as a newly hired riverboat captain, traveling up the Congo River, seeking out the legendary chief of the Belgium trading company. When describing typical sites and events situated in the Congo, Joseph Conrad wrote "The Heart of Darkness" in a first person's view, with Marlow as the highlight character. As he writes on about Marlow's experiences, he portrays typical issues set in the time period of the late 1800's, such as slavery, trading and imperialism....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart Darkness] 1187 words
(3.4 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
The Portrayal of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay - Women have gained equality with men over the many centuries of the evolution of the modern western civilization. Hence, it cannot be overlooked that there still exist many literary examples of social disregard for woman potential. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" exemplifies the Western patriarchal gender roles in which women are given the inferior status.<p> Not only are women portrayed as being inferior to men, but Marlow's (the protagonist's) seldom mentioning of them in his Congo adventure narrative symbolizes his view of their insignificance....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness] 1190 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Essay - Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness is a story about Marlow’s journey to discover his inner self. Along the way, Marlow faces his fears of failure, insanity, death, and cultural contamination on his trek to the inner station. Marlow, who goes on his journey to meet Kurtz, already has a fascination with Kurtz after listening to many people along the way. Conrad tries to show us that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, and Kurtz is what Marlow could become. Marlow says about himself, "I was getting savage," meaning that he was becoming more like Kurtz....   [tags: Marlow Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Essays] 738 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Mind of Man in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Essay - The Mind of Man in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad "The changes take place inside you know" the doctor warns Marlow in Heart of Darkness (9). Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness, uses the words of the doctor to warn the readers of the changes Marlow faces on his journey. This journey was a physical journey to the heart of the Congo River, but it was also a journey into the depths of his own mind. As Marlow encounters three stations along the Congo River, he encounters three stations or levels in his mind....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart Darkness Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
892 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Joseph Conrad's Views On Colonialism Essays - "What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea." "Those who read me know my conviction that the world, the tempered world rests, notably, on the idea of Fidelity." This is a running theme through most Conrad's books. As a sailor he learned that to survive, every crewman did the job he was assigned, and that the survival of the ship, and therefore the community, depended on each man doing his duty. The heart of darkness can be read as a political critique of western imperialism as exercised by the Belgians, who more or less raped the Congo of its resources while brutalizing the country's people and making them slaves of unbridled politi...   [tags: Joseph Conrad] 1505 words
(4.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches





went.(Conrad 16)

 

The self absorbed attitude of Marlow is now even more advanced then it was

only a few pages back in the story. When he heard the news of the old steam

boat he at least expressed some type of remorse over his death. Not even

remorse, but he at least gave it some some thought. As the above quote

illustrates he barely even acknowledges the fact that large numbers of men

could be dying in the waves. As Marlow gets closer and closer to the congo

he is unconsciously starting to mold himself into the kind of person that

could survive there. He is beginning to shut out everything but what

concerns him directly.

 

While this sense of self absorption that Marlow displays seems

necessary for survival, it seems that later on, in someone that has been in

the congo for a while, this self absorption catches up with them. The

obvious example of this is agent Kurtz. For so long he had been exploiting

the natives so that he could move up in the ranks of the ivory business. He

has been separating himself from everybody else. The end result is that he

is so alone and so absorbed in himself that he loses himself and goes

insane. The best example of the complete sell focus Kurtz had on himself can

be taken from his changing views on the Africans. He went from a man who

said that some things could be learned and/or admired about them, to a man

who simply wrote, "Exterminate all the brutes."(Conrad 51) This is coming

from a man that has become so absorbed in himself that he really doesn't

give a second thought to the elimination of a race that he, at one time,

found extremely intriguing. Eventually Kurtz's self absorption and drive for

personal wealth drive him back to the ivory station and to his death.

Getting to the level of self absorption takes some time and

conditioning. Although Marlow is very accomplished in the field of self

admiration, he still has some cracks in his wall he has around himself."

 

The man seemed young- almost a boy- but you know with them it's hard

to tell. I found nothing else to do but to offer him one of my

good Swede;s ship biscuits I had in my pocket. The fingers closed

slowly on it and held-there was no other movement and no

other glance.(Conrad 20)

 

Marlow does his best to lump all black people together and to make it seem

like he doesn't care. But there is still the suggestion that he has not

completely closed himself off. Many people would say that he is only

thinking of himself in this situation because he does nothing more than give

the starving man a cookie. He actually does more than that. Marlow does not

just throw a cookie at this person. He is noticing and taking note of all of

the details of this man's suffering. If he was completely hardened then he

would not even have given the man a cookie, much less devote a fair amount

of thought to the situation. Luckily, for Marlow's sake, he never gets

completely hardened. This is evident because he does not get consumed by his

work and by himself, as Kurtz did.

 

Survival in Heart of Darkness offers up and interesting paradox. On

one hand you have to harden up yourself against all other peoples feelings

and emotions in order to be successful and survive. In other words be

completely self absorbed. On the other hand if you wall yourself up from

everyone and become consumed with your own self then you will not be able to

survive. So basically this book is trying to get across that somewhere in

between caring and not caring there is a happy medium in which one can be

successful and survive. Marlow and Kurtz personified both ends of the

spectrum. Marlow wasn't able to be concerned enough with himself and Kurtz

was so concerned with his status that it killed him. Sandwiched between the

two is successful, happy ivory trader.

 

 Works Cited

Conrad, Robert. Herat of Dakness. W.W. Norton Company: New York, New York.1988

 

 


Return to 123HelpMe.com