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Contrasts and Paradoxes: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Throughout its entirety, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness utilizes many contrasts and paradoxes in an attempt to teach readers about the complexities of both human nature and the world. Some are more easily distinguishable, such as the comparison between civilized and uncivilized people, and some are more difficult to identify, like the usage of vagueness and clarity to contrast each other. One of the most prominent inversions contradicts the typical views of light and dark. While typically light is imagined to expose the truth and darkness to conceal it, Conrad creates a paradox in which darkness displays the truth and light blinds us from it.
Initially, the story endorses the conventional views of Western society, exhibiting light as a positive and reassuring presence without truly comprehending the truth it reveals. Before Marlow begins his story, the sky around the boat he reclines on is full of light.
“The sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light” (Conrad 2). By using wording such as “benign” and “unstained”, it paints a picture in one’s mind of a kindly, pure environment. Since the story begins here, it seems as though the tale has begun in the light, and accordingly, honesty, and as the day progresses will descend into darkness and thus falsehood. As Marlow begins to speak, he contemplates the history of the land around him. “Light came out of this river since-you say knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker-may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday” (Conrad 3). He speaks of our world as a “flicker”, a twinkle in the “darkness” that was present before our civilization arose. T...

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...re”. While his Intended pines for Kurtz in his absence, his Mistress longs for the heavens and freedom. While they are interconnected in some ways, Kurtz’s Intended and his Mistress represent physically the paradox of light and dark, in that two people so similar might behave and think so differently.
As Marlow assists the reader in understanding the story he tells, many inversions and contrasts are utilized in order to increase apperception of the true meaning it holds. One of the most commonly occurring divergences is the un orthodox implications that light and dark embody. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness brims with paradoxes and symbolism throughout its entirety, with the intent of assisting the reader in comprehending the truth of not only human nature, but of the world.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Dover Publications, 1990. Print.
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