Beckoning readers closer, the gloomy foreboding of a mysterious darkness has typically been indicative of an antagonist or a horror that is to follow, and the glory of a shining light has signified a positive connotation. The pair is often utilized to express an author’s ideas and theme and Joseph Conrad uses the two paradigms liberally in his interpretation of European colonialism in Heart of Darkness. While Conrad employs the typical binary of light and darkness as positive and negative forces, respectively, he also challenges this notion by exposing the contradictions of misdeeds done in light and the portrayal of darkness as a sanctuary.
Conrad applies the traditional roles played by light and dark as an allusion to the combinations of beginnings versus endings and life versus death. The pattern of light and dark first appears with the entrance of the novel itself, in which the first scene captures the men on the Nellie observing the sun’s descent into the water. Breaking the tranquility of “a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance,” Conrad consequently casts an ominous shadow over the entirety of his novel, for both the present tense of the narrator and Marlow’s recollection (1). The closing of the novel therefore fittingly bookends the novel in a comparison of light and dark as representatives of the beginning and the end by surrounding Marlow’s drowsy listeners in “a black bank of clouds” (Conrad 79). As an illustration of biological beginnings and endings, Kurtz’s last minutes are spent in the darkness accompanied by a candle and Marlow. The destructive effect of the Congo jungle that caused the “disintegration of Kurtz’s mind” is ...
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... the rest of the world- an evil that occurs in pure daylight. The usually associated connotation of sunlight would indicate legality, purity and innocence; Conrad exposes imperialism to the core of its corruption and acts of cruelty horrifically being committed without protest from other European equals. Being a spectator to such exploitations should not rationally be plausible, however, human nature’s “fascination of the abomination” renders society helpless to disagree (Conrad 4). Regardless, humanity features nuances of both sides of the ‘good and evil’ pairing, seen through the parallel of the absolutes of light and dark.
Although Conrad effectively uses the classic positions taken by light and dark, the subversion of these roles is much stronger in their ultimate utilization to reveal the morbid nature of colonization perpetrated by the baseness of human nature.
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