Symbols, Setting, and Ironies of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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Symbols, Setting, and Ironies of Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, is about many things: seafaring, riverboating, trade and exploration, imperialism and colonialism, race relations, the attempt to find meaning in the universe while trying to get at the mysteries of the subconscious mind. Heart of Darkness is a vivid portrayal of European imperialism. The book in other words is a story about European "acts of imperial mastery" (1503)-its methods, and the effects it has on human nature-and it is presumable that Conrad incorporates much of his own experience in the Congo and his opinions about imperialism into the story.

Beyond the shield of civilization and into the depths of a primitive, untamed frontier lies the true face of the human soul. It is in the midst of this savagery and unrelenting danger that mankind confronts the brooding nature of his inner self.

Setting is relevant to the overall theme of the novel. As the plot opens up, Marlow begins to compare and contrast the Thames River to the Congo. He describes both rivers to be connected like "an interminable waterway" (Conrad 65). Marlow means to say that the two are connected symbolically. Both represent the continual passage for the ivory trade. The ivory is carried out of Africa through the Congo and into Europe through the Thames. The Thames is depicted as being peaceful and tranquil while the Congo is it's antithesis. Both are associated with darkness, however, the Thames has "conquered" it's darkness and now is peaceful. Conrad portrays London to be the "light" of the world and Africa to be "one of the darkest places on the earth" (pg. 67). Europe is highly civilized and refined while Africa is considered to ...

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...s in The Heart of Darkness, Conrad reflects the true nature of man. He concludes that within every man lies a heart of darkness. "This heart is drowned in a bath of light shed by the advent of civilization. No man is an island, and no man can live on the island without becoming a brutal savage. Inside his heart lies the raw evil of untamed lifestyle" (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation).

Works Cited

"The Congo" Created December 07, 1995 (Accessed 12 February 1997).

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Penguin Books, 1983.

"The Fear" Created December 07, 1995 (Accessed 12 February 1997).

"Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation of the darkness inherent in men's souls" "The Perfect Native" Created December 07, 1995 (Accessed 12 February 1997).

"The Setting" Created December 07, 1995 (Accessed 12 February 1997).
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