The Characters, Setting, and Symbols of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

1790 Words8 Pages
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. Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, is the story of one man's insight into life as he embarks on a voyage to the edges of the world. Here, he meets the bitter, yet enlightening forces that eventually shape his outlook on life and his own individuality. Conrad’s portrayal of the characters, setting, and symbols, allow the reader to reflect on the true nature of man. The two main characters in Heart of Darkness, Marlow and Kurtz are used to show the true nature of man, that is, the capacity for good and evil within humanity. The central character is a thirty two year old sailor, Charlie Marlow. Marlow is the primary narrator in the novel, therefore his thought’s, opinions, experiences and revelations, shape the entire novels themes and the value system put forward. Marlow illustrates how forces of light and darkness serve to weave the human soul together; thus, essentially how good and evil are reflected in an individual. This is particularly important regarding the construction of Marlow, who is essentially a biased narrator, and a product of his European upbringing. An example is his inability to deal with the dying natives at the “grove of death”, offering a native a biscuit as an apparent kind gesture. Yet this is only due to him not being confronted with situations like this previously where his own values, and the whole premise behind colonialism, the exploitation is revealed. The patriarchial views of women he displays also outline the background of Marlow and the a... ... middle of paper ... ...o 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. Web. 23 February 2007. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print. "The Fear" Created December 07, 1995. Web. 9 February 2007. "Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation of the darkness inherent in men's souls" "The Perfect Native" Created December 07, 1995. Web. 12 February 2007. "The Setting" Created December 07, 1995. Web. 12 February 2007. Works Consulted Goonetilleke, D.C.R.A. "Heart of Darkness: Overview." Literature Resources from Gale. Gale, 1994. Web. 18 February 2007. Loe, Thomas. "Heart of Darkness: Overview." Literature Resources from Gale. Gale, 1991. Web. 12 February 2007.
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