Psychological, Philosophical and Religious Elements of Heart of Darkness

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Psychological, Philosophical and Religious Elements of Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness is a kind of little world unto itself. The reader of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness should take the time to consider this work from a psychological point of view. There are, after all, an awful lot of heads and skulls in the book, and Conrad goes out of his way to suggest that in some sense Marlow's journey is like a dream or a return to our primitive past--an exploration of the dark recesses of the human mind.

Looking at the book from a psychological viewpoint, there are apparent similarities to the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud in its suggestion that dreams are a clue to hidden areas of the mind, and that at the heart of things--which Freud called the Id--we are all primitive brutes and savages, capable of the most appalling wishes and the most horrifying impulses. Through Freud, or other systems of thought that resemble Freud's, we can make sense of “the urge Marlow feels to leave his boat and join the natives for a savage whoop and hollar” (Tessitore, 42). We might even, in this light, notice that Marlow keeps insisting that Kurtz is a voice--a voice who seems to speak to him out of the heart of the immense darkness--and so perhaps he can be thought of, in a sense, as the voice of Marlow's own deepest, psychological self. Of course, we must remember that it is doubtful Conrad had ever heard Sigmund Freud when he set out to write the book. Although a psychological viewpoint is very useful, it does not speak to the whole of our experience of the book.

Heart of Darkness is also concerned with philosophy and religion. This concern manifests itself in the way Conrad plays with the concept of pilgrims and pilgrimag...

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