Webster’s dictionary defines darkness as a space “devoid or partially devoid of light.” Throughout Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad uses darkness in many ways, as this book truly defines its title. This also develops Conrad’s theme, which is the presence of darkness in both ourselves, and in the world we live. Darkness symbolizes the unknown, the concealed, and the feared. Darkness can hide many hurtful, fearful, and savage things. Several times in the novel readers can see characters afraid of the darkness and the unknown behind it.
(Longman p2189). Heart of Darkness is written in the narrative frame and Conrad uses the character of Marlow to narrate his story of the "darkness" of the European colonialization. Marlow narrates his tell aboard a yawl to an anonymous crew. Joseph Conrad became more aware of King Leopold's policy within the Congo, causing millions of deaths of African natives because inhumane practices. He felt he could impact readers through depicting these horrors in his novel.
This whole story consists of a large paradox, the darkness can be represented as Kurtz yet Kurtz can be perceived as a dark inner side of Marlow’s character, while the Congo can represent pure evil, and the Congo could also represent the test in which Marlow goes through to emerge as the changed man the reader sees at the end of the story. Yet as Marlow rides on the boat back with Kurtz he realizes that everybody has that lil’ bit of evil inside of them it all depends how you control it or let it control you. For Marlow he learned from seeing a man who was so much like him, Kurtz end up ruined by the temptation of the jungle.
As Marlow completes his story, his lie to Kurtz’s fiancé causes Marlow to realize the unavoidable darkness for humanity. After completing his story, Marlow looks up, only to understand how unavoidable darkness really is: “The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” (Conrad 72). As a result of telling his story, Marlow realizes the darkness of mankind is not only a result of imperialism, but also a result of existence. Lying to Kurtz’s fiancé completes Marlow’s realization of
Conrad makes many references to darkness, just in the first pages, giving a sort of foreshadowing of what is to come later in the book. When the book starts out, it is sundown, and very dark, the narrator creates a feeling of quiet, and Marlow suddenly breaks the mood by saying, “and this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.” This in turn leads him to his story about another of the dark places of the earth that he had traveled to. Marlow tells of how he got a job as a steamboat captain in the Congo River. This is a reference to the title, because in the time that Conrad wrote the book Africa was often called the land of darkness, with Congo in its very center, or heart. Marlow’s first job is to retrieve the bones of the former steam boat captain, Fresleven.
We know from the start of the novella that the darkness that Conrad refers to is symbolic, because, while the silent narrator aboard The Nellie comments on the many lights emanating from the shore, the lighthouse, the other boats and the setting sun, Marlowe comments that they themselves are in 'one of the dark places of the earth';. Therefore we know that Marlowe has his own opinion and explanation of what the darkness is, and if we assume that this story is autobiographical, and Marlowe is a mouthpiece for Conrad, then this explanation actually indicates Conrad's personal views on what the darkness is. Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe attacked Heart of Darkness as racist. He felt that Conrad used the darkness to symbolise the negative character of Africa, and objected to the novel as a manifestation of 'white racism over Africa'; (Achebe, 1975). I do not agree with this view of the novella as a purely racist piece of literature.
Critical Review of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness The understanding of evil and its genesis could not be achieved without submerging into the reality of iniquity. In Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", Marlow went through an unsurpassable physiological burden of the Congo River to understand the mystic and the brilliance of Kurtz's dark and destructive mind and soul; the resemblance of true evil. This novel portrays the tragic outcome of the severe European dominion over the helpless African population and the destruction of fundamental human conventions and beliefs. The ignorance and misunderstanding with which the colonists were driven to imaginary wealth and authority nourished the hidden potential of evil that lies within each person and brought a great wave of disaster to the Congo River. The novel places us into the epicenter of mysterious Congo Jungle, full of darkness, savagery, greed and death.
Kurtz is, for the most part, alone in the wilderness, however, he is not alone in his wickedness. Kurtz's inner evil spreads outward into Africa making it the dark place that it becomes during the novel. The local people have become corrupt due to Kurtz's position of power and co... ... middle of paper ... ...den, Wilfred S. "I Start with Definite Images." Joseph Conrad: The Imagined Style . Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1970.
Joseph Conrad's experiences commanding a steamboat down the Belgian Congo showed him man's capacity for evil and Conrad used his experiences as an outline for Heart of Darkness. The result is that both novels explore the central themes of civilization versus savagery, man's inhumanity to man, man's capacity for evil, and the desire for power. Both Conrad and Golding believed in the idea that all human beings have a dark side that is kept in touch by civilization and their novels showed what would happen if a man was isolated from civilization long, enough to begin ignoring the morals that society had enforced upon him. His civilized instincts would begin to compete with his savage instincts to form the conflict between civilization and savagery, which is a ma... ... middle of paper ... ... Jack and Kurtz do gain the power that they desire and they are both almost worshiped like gods. Jack is described on page 149 as "painted and garlanded, sitting there like an idol.
But as he proceeds deeper into the heart of the African jungle and begins to understand savagery as a primitive form of civilization and, therefore, a reflection on his own reality, the metaphor shifts, until the narrator raises his head at the end of the novel to discover that the Thames seemed to 'lead into the heart of an immense darkness.'' The alteration of the light-dark metaphor corresponds with Marlow's cognizance that the only 'reality', 'truth', or 'light' about civilization is that it is, regardless of appearances, unreal, absurd, and shrouded in 'darkness'. Marlow uses the contrast between darkness and light to underscore the schism between the seemingly disparate realms of civility and savagery, repeatedly associating light with knowledge and truth; darkness with mystery and deceptive evil. When Marlow realizes that his aunt's acquaintances had misrepresented him to the Chief of the Inner Station, Marlow states, 'Light dawned upon me', as if to explicitly associate light with knowledge or cognizance. It is significant then, that Marlow later associates light with civilization.