Heart of Darkness - How Do We Encounter Ourselves in the Modern Society

Heart of Darkness - How Do We Encounter Ourselves in the Modern Society

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While I was reading the short story “Heart of Darkness,” by Joseph Conrad, I recalled an essay I read back in Korea, titled “Why Do We Read Novels.” The writer of the essay states that the most common reason why we, as people, read novels is that it makes us ask ourselves how the justice or injustice of the real world relates to that of the author’s words. In this way, the short story “Heart of Darkness” portrays the experiences and thoughts of Conrad through the tale of two important characters, Marlow and Mr. Kurtz. His work forces the reader to ponder questions of the morality, humanity, and insanity which takes place in our human lives.
The story is a record of Marlow’s journey to meeting Mr. Kurtz, a morally corrupted being who is a symbolic representation of the darkness and wilderness of the African jungle. It is necessary to pay close attention to the process of Marlow’s journey and meeting with Mr. Kurtz in order to understand the meaning of what he learned from discovering himself and how this relates to our modern world.
Unlike other white men who went into the Congo River for unmoral or materialistic reasons, such as to Christianize the natives or to get rich by exploiting all the ivories in the jungle, Marlow does not feel right about how the Imperialistic European countries exploit of the rest of the world. This is shown very clearly when Marlow says “This devoted band called itself the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, and I believe they were sworn to secrecy. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage, there was not an atom of fore-sight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware ...


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... jungles of the Congo or on the civilized streets of London.
I feel strongly that one of the reasons why Conrad wrote this novella is to encourage us to ask ourselves about how we encounter ourselves in the contemporary society. He must have felt that people during his time indulged in imperialism, which prevented them from reflecting on themselves. Consequently, there are many evidences in the text that show his cynical view of imperialism. For example, Marlow describes the French army’s firing into a continent as “a feeble screech” (P.275), implying the author’s pessimistic view towards imperialism. In this way, the people in the modern society indulge in modern things that prevent us from reflecting on ourselves, such as mass media, the internet, etc. Conrad once said “Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.” Are we facing ourselves?

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