Essay moralhod Moral Ambiguity in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Essay moralhod Moral Ambiguity in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Length: 1243 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Moral Ambiguity in Heart of Darkness

 
In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness we see various attitudes toward morality. It is extremely difficult, maybe impossible, to deduce the exact endorsement of morality that Conrad intended. Conrad provides his readers with several instances where the interpretation of morality is circumstantial, relative, and even "indeterminable." One finds many situations in the novel that lie somewhere between morality, immorality, and amorality. A few examples from the novel that illustrate this idea are: the depiction of Kurtz as revealed through Marlowe, Marlowe's own actions and thoughts, and the Kurtz' death scene.

In the case of Kurtz, Conrad seems to give us blatant amorality. Conrad constantly suggests that the issue of morality with Kurtz is moot, as he has transcended society's, western society's, stringent standards of morality. The Russian that Marlowe meets just after entering Kurtz' domain explains to Marlowe that "you can't judge Mr. Kurtz as you would an ordinary man." The Russian believes that Kurtz has transcended all "ordinary" value systems. Marlowe confirms this idea in his enchantment with Kurtz when he and the manager of the steamboat converse about the nature of Kurtz' actions. Marlowe asks the Manager if he thinks the methods of Kurtz are unsound, to which the Manager quickly replies in the affirmative. However, Marlowe cannot exactly concur with this assessment of Kurtz' actions as he sees in them "no method at all." The Manager, an unreliable source of information as he is a biased character of the western persuasion, sees Kurtz as immoral, likely because he sees Kurtz as greedy. Whereas Marlowe is completely unable to relate to any sort of moral system, if indeed the...


... middle of paper ...


...ne the value other moralities. So, in the case of Kurtz, morality is not moot. Instead of being judged, Kurtz now makes the judgement, an act of a moral being.

In conclusion, just as Conrad's narrator says, the story is hazy. The theme of morality, as Ian Watt put it, is "especially difficult to decipher." Conrad toys with the characters' value systems. As we can easily see, they are filled with uncertainty. Marlowe and Kurtz undergo changes in their view of morality, Marlowe, perhaps, never arriving at a tangible destination. These shifts and changes make it impossible to arrive at the exact endorsement of morality, if indeed there is one, which Conrad intended.

 

Works Cited:

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York and London: Norton. 1988.

Watt, Ian. Conrad in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P. 1979.
 

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on The Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- In The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a seaman named Marlow examines European imperialism before his very eyes and how it is affecting the natives in the area they are imperializing, which is the Belgian Congo. Conrad conveys to the reader that multiple people have multiple views on the natives and their habitat. On the other hand, Conrad also displays how the natives have different feelings for the Europeans that are intruding on their land. Through Marlow’s eyes, we see a very prospective view as he speaks of how he does not favor the treatment of the natives yet he does nothing to stop it....   [tags: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad]

Strong Essays
1169 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, showcases a steady decline of one 's sanity, through the voyage that the main character, Marlow, takes through the Congo River; this is shown by the french ship firing into the jungle, Kurtz’s letters, and the stops at the three stations: the outer, center, and inner. The first showcase of madness in this novella is when Marlow is about to enter the congo and he sees a French war ship firing randomly into the jungle. The French have a French warship firing into an uninhabited land, so they can battle the natives that live the congo....   [tags: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad]

Strong Essays
1240 words (3.5 pages)

Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad Essay

- The novella, Heart of Darkness (1899), written by Joseph Conrad, is one big metaphor for the insatiable desire for land and commodity of Imperialist Europe. The protagonist is Charlie Marlow, a steamer captain during the Scramble to Africa, tells his crew of his travels into the heart of Africa, up the Congo River to an ivory trading station, deep within the impenetrable forest of Congo. He is trying to get to Mr. Kurtz- a lead ivory exporter of the area. Praising this mysterious authoritarian figure, Marlow is transformed by what he witnesses....   [tags: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad]

Strong Essays
1388 words (4 pages)

Joseph Conrad 's Heart Of Darkness Essay

- There is one absolute certainty in life --death. Often euphemized as the “great equalizer”, death transcends all things that divide people: be it race, gender, religion, etc., and effects everyone that has: ever lived, is living, or will live. Joseph Conrad in his novella “Heart of Darkness”, shares the death of an imperial ivory tradesman, in order to uncover the dehumanizing subterfuge of justifying Imperialism. The main literary mechanism Conrad employs in “Heart of Darkness” is the characterization of Death itself....   [tags: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, Apocalypse Now]

Strong Essays
1038 words (3 pages)

Essay on Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- Joseph Conrad’s s book Heart of Darkness portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical land of Africa as “so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness”, (Conrad 154) as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life. Conrad lived through a time when European colonies were spread all over the world. This event and the doctrine of colonialism bought into at his time obviously influenced his views at the time of Heart of Darkness publication....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Human]

Strong Essays
1441 words (4.1 pages)

Essay on The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

- The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Marlow, an ordinary sailor with idealistic dreams, goes on a dark yet fascinating journey as a newly hired riverboat captain, traveling up the Congo River, seeking out the legendary chief of the Belgium trading company. When describing typical sites and events situated in the Congo, Joseph Conrad wrote "The Heart of Darkness" in a first person's view, with Marlow as the highlight character. As he writes on about Marlow's experiences, he portrays typical issues set in the time period of the late 1800's, such as slavery, trading and imperialism....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart Darkness]

Strong Essays
1187 words (3.4 pages)

Essay about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent

- Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent: A Critique of Late-Victorian Gender Roles February 15, 1894, was the most interesting afternoon in the otherwise dreary history of Greenwich Observatory. Earlier in the day, Martial Bourdin, a skinny anarchist, traveled by train from Westminster to Greenwich, concealing a small bomb. As he ominously ambled through Greenwich Park, towards the Observatory, something happened - no one knows exactly what - and he blew most of himself to shreds. The British, who loved to quantify in the late nineteenth century, noted that the explosion spread bits of flesh over a distance of sixty yards....   [tags: Joseph Conrad The Secret Agent]

Strong Essays
4961 words (14.2 pages)

Essay Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer

- Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” “ In order to live with direction and an understanding of what is going on around you, one must understand and know what goes on inside himself.” - William Page In Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”, the Captain of the vessel finds that he does not know himself as well as he thinks. It is not until a castaway, Leggatt, arrives that the captain finally achieves a level of self understanding and completion. Leggatt serves as the Captain’s complimenting double, and his actions and thoughts eventually help the captain learn about himself and create stronger character....   [tags: The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad]

Strong Essays
1479 words (4.2 pages)

Joseph Conrad: An Innovator in British Literature Essay

- Joseph Conrad: An Innovator in British Literature       Joseph Conrad’s innovative literature is influenced by his experiences in traveling to foreign countries around the world. Conrad’s literature consists of the various styles of techniques he uses to display his well-recognized work as British literature. "His prose style, varying from eloquently sensuous to bare and astringent, keeps the reader in constant touch with a mature, truth-seeking, creative mind" (Hutchinson 1). Conrad’s novels are basically based on having both a psychological and sociological plot within them....   [tags: Conrad]

Strong Essays
1752 words (5 pages)

Essay about Youth by Joseph Conrad

- Youth by Joseph Conrad This analysis is based on the short story “Youth” by Joseph Conrad, in which involves the explanation of youth in relation to life. The story presents the theme that youth is somehow disillusioning. During the plot progression, it shows the perceptions and thinking of the main character, Marlow, who is a young ship's officer fascinated by the air of adventure and romance of the exotic East. The main themes describe some aspect of human life and behaviour, some of which are idealism versus realism, survival and the trials and tribulations that are encountered through life....   [tags: Youth Joseph Conrad Essays]

Strong Essays
494 words (1.4 pages)