The Hero and Anti-Hero in Joseph Conrad?s Heart of Darkness

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The Hero and Anti-Hero in Joseph Conrad?s Heart of Darkness

In studying Joseph Conrad's, The Heart of Darkness, many critics dwell on the issue of heroism. Who is the hero, Marlow or Kurtz? It is clear that both Marlow and Kurtz are the protagonists of the story; however, protagonist and hero are not always synonymous. Marlow is the hero in the traditional sense of the word, while Kurtz is the more modern hero, often referred to as the anti-hero.

Marlow starts out as just as everyman, trying to put some bread on the table. His original plans were setting out to make money, but his journey turns into so much more. His expedition turns into a quest to find and save Kurtz, and to understand the people so many were prejudice against.

Despite the opinion of certain critics, Conrad did not create Marlow to be a prejudice character. One of his first Marlow?s first Reactions to the villagers is the exact opposite, ?They were not enemies they were not criminals??(Conrad, 189) While his initial response may not seem altogether accepting, it is far beyond the understanding of his peers. As the story continues Marlow is slightly sarcastic in his understanding of the villagers, ?Fine fellows-Cannibals-in their place. They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face? (189)? Marlow shows his ability to be sarcastic in the face of popular criticism, even making the mold step to refer to these African?s as ?Fine Fellows?(189), ?They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of they humanity-like yours-the thought of your remote kinship with this wild??(189) Although the natives...

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...s to look at Kurtz as a hero for all that he had accomplished, no matter how evil. Marlow?s obstacles as the hero are not the overcoming of a dragon or evil villain. It is the eternal battle of the story of a Hero versus Antihero. Marlow?s blindness to Kurtz?s impurities are both his strength and weakness. His ignorance to the greatness of his own qualities can best be stated one way: ?The Horror.?

Works Cited page

Conrad, Joseph ?The Heart Of Darkness?

Schwarz, Danie Reference Guide to English Literature, 2nd ed., edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick, St. James Press, 1991

Dean, Leonard Fellows Heart of darkness. Backgrounds and criticisms Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1962,c1960

?The Gallery of Antiheroes and Villains? Flowerstorm 2004

?The Existential page? Connect 2004

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