Jungian Psychology and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

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As the Heart of Darkness snakes its way into the savage shadows of the African continent, Joseph Conrad exposes a psycho-geography of the collective unconscious in the entangling metaphoric realities of the serpentine Congo. Conrad’s novella descends into the unknowable darkness at the heart of Africa, taking its narrator, Marlow, on an underworld journey of individuation, a modern odyssey toward the center of the Self and the center of the Earth. Ego dissolves into soul as, in the interior, Marlow encounters his double in the powerful image of ivory-obsessed Kurtz, the dark shadow of European imperialism. The dark meditation is graced by personifications of anima in Kurtz’ black goddess, the savagely magnificent consort of the underworld, and in his porcelain -skinned Persephone, innocent intended of the upperworld. Though “Dr. Jung’s discoveries were not known to Conrad, “ (Hayes, 43) who wrote this master work between 1898 and 1899, Heart of Darkness presents a literary metaphor of Jungian psychology. This paper explores the dark territory of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as metaphor for the Jungian concepts of the personal and the collective unconscious, as a journey of individuation, a meeting with the anima, an encounter with the shadow, and a descent into the mythic underworld. Like Conrad’s Marlow, who is propelled toward his African destiny despite ample warning and foreboding, I have been drawn beyond the classic analysis of the Heart of Darkness, embarking down an uncharted tributary, scouting parallels between Marlow’s tale and Jung’s own journeys to Africa, and seeking murky insight into the physical and the metaphorical impact of the dark continent on the language and the landscape of depth psychology. “Africa,”... ... middle of paper ... ...Aniela Jaffe. New York: Random House, 1989. Jung, C.G. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. R.F.C. Hull. Bollingen Series XX. Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1977. Lord, George de Forest. Trials of the Self: Heroic Ordeals in the Epic Tradition Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1983. McLynn, Frank. Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa. New York: Carol & Gey, 1992. Mellard, James. "Myth and Archetype in Heart of Darkness," Tennessee Studies in Literature 13 (1968): 1-15. Miller, David. Hells and Holy Ghosts: A Theopoetics of Christian Belief. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989. Smith, Evans Lansing. Rape and Revelation: The Descent to the Underworld in Modernism. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1990. Spivack, Charlotte. "The Journey to Hell: Satan, The Shadow, and the Self." Centennial Review 9:4 (1965): 420 - 437.

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