Manhood and Heroism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness


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Heart of Darkness Essay: Manhood and Heroism


Civility, civilization and civilize, are they and could they be man’s defense against the power and mystery of nature and the primal nature of himself? When man lives away from refinement and education and is living in the natural habitat of sea, jungle, and forest, there can be seen a tragedy of a warrior, in the destruction of nature and himself.

In "The Heart of Darkness", Joseph Conrad must go on a quest to discover the fire and passion in his male being and ignite the flame in his heart that is the fuel for his will to survive in the earth. The immediate relationship to the Thames River and his merging consciousness with that element, reflect back to him a memory of myth and history of all the archetypes of man and warriors who also as he, was engaged and moving in this famous passage. The sea has parted and has opened all past memory to the strong images that have crystallized before him of his first journey where man and sea began.

The sea is a man’s world where he goes through trials and initiations that test his manhood, and why? Is there an obsession in our past history and today with manliness and manpower?
 
If aliens were to study our cultures, they definitely would notice something very strange. It is our social obsession with manhood that is considered a test to be passed, which creates unnecessary arenas of war, and work that links man with the social stresses of protecting, providing and procreating.

In "The Heart of Darkness" there is the fear of a man not being man enough. The tragedies of a hero and the hazards of heroism are that the more he fights the enemy, the more he begins to be like the enemy; the more he kills beasts, the more he becomes like a beast.

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Has the ego then becomes the dictator instead of the servant and vehicle to evaluate the moment to realize itself. This brings up another question; Are women’s natures civilizing balance? Or could it be said that men civilized women by taking care of the killing. Just as a genius walks a fine line with destructiveness, so heroism walks a thin line with both the destruction of others and self-destruction which can only be balanced by the hero’s heart and consciousness.


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