Feminist Imagery in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness

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Feminist Imagery in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness

Many feminist critics have used Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to show how Marolw constructs parallels and personification between women and the inanimate jungle that he speaks of. The jungle that houses the savages and the "remarkable" Kurtz has many feminine characteristics. By the end of the novel, it is the same feminized wilderness and darkness that Marlow identifies as being the cause of Kurtz's mental and physical collapse.

In Heart of Darkness, the landscape is feminized through a rhetoric of personification. The landscape is constructed as an entity that speaks and acts, and is consequently made to appear as something which is alive. The projection of a face on the landscape works through this same personification. Reference to "The sunlit face of the land. . .to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart" is an imitation of apocalyptic resignation, filling Marlow with an apprehension that "it looked at you with a vengeful aspect". Marlow's suspicion is not that there is someone in the forest watching him, but that it is the forest itself which is watching him. The rhetorical personification of the landscape illuminates the wilderness and gives it life. It is this that Marlow presents as his source of unease as he travels in search of Kurtz.

The significance of Kurtz's undoing by the wilderness and Marlow's ethic of restraint is accentuated above all by the account Marlow provides of the "wild and gorgeous apparition" of a native woman he observes from the steamer: She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She carried her head high;...

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... illusion is established in the way they are spoken about but are, themselves, not allocated as a true component or actual human embodiment of the narrative. The women in the text are never given any voice or name and they are treated only as speechless objects that happen to be part of the overall jungle. Unlike the men in Joseph Conrad's story, the women are set apart from the rest of the story and no matter how important the y actually were to the society of the jungle, they were only spoken of as inanimate objects that happened to have the power to walk across the land. In the end, it is by the hands and powers of these unspoken women who bring the downfall of Kurtz and his empowerment over the African jungle. It is the "horror" of truth and reality that finally tears him down, the same truth that was withheld from the women of the story in every possible way.
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