Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is full of oppositions. The most obvious is the juxtaposition of darkness and light, which are both present from the very beginning, in imagery and in metaphor. The novella is a puzzling mixture of anti-imperialism and racism, civilization and savagery, idealism and nihilism. How can they be reconciled? The final scene, in which Marlow confronts Kurtz's Intended, might be expected to provide resolution. However, it seems, instead, merely to focus the dilemmas in the book, rather than solving them.
Throughout the first part of his interview with Kurtz's Intended, Marlow talks about saving her from the darkness:
"Yes, I know," I said with something like despair in my heart, but bowing my head before the faith that was in her, before that great and saving illusion that shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness, in the triumphant darkness from which I could not have defended her-from which I could not even defend myself." (93)
The Intended believes wholeheartedly in Kurtz, as well as in the greatness of civilization and imperialism. As Marlow now knows well, her ideals are nothing but illusion; however, he acknowledges and protects them. He has a somewhat sexist view of women; as he has stated previously in his narrative, he believes that women cannot deal with reality and thus need illusions in order to survive. It is noteworthy, however, that even though this observation comes before the interview with the Intended in the sequence of narration, the story is being told after the interview has happened, and thus it is not unreasonable to suppose that Marlow's opinion of women has been formed from this very inci...
... middle of paper ...
Adelman, Gary. Heart of Darkness: Search for the Unconscious. Boston: Little & Brown, 1987.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed. Ross C Murfin. Second ed. New York: Bedford Books, 1996.
Levenson, Michael. "The Value of Facts in the Heart of Darkness." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 40 (1985):351-80.
Professor's Comments: Very well done--subtle and perceptive and well-argued. A very sophisticated and beautifully written paper as a whole.
I wish you'd included the details of the setting, but mainly, see question on p. 4 [Well--acknowledge that her "certainty" only exists, and is only "unextinguishable", because it's blind illusion. Do you think that's what Conrad offers us as a source of hope?] : you stop just short of moving out to Conrad, and what he may offer us by way of "certainty" and even hope in the midst of all the fogginess.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Binary Oppositions in Heart of Darkness In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad used a series of reversed traditional binary oppositions to convey the theme that every man has his own heart of darkness that is simply masked by the superficial light of civilization. The novella focused primarily on the adventurer Charlie Marlow's journey into the African Congo, but dealt with larger themes. Marlow was from Europe and understood the basic premises of imperialism, but was unprepared for the world he encountered in the wilderness.... [tags: Heart Darkness essays]
1529 words (4.4 pages)
- Black vs. White in Heart of Darkness The warm glow of civilization comforts and protects us all, but is there something more? Is the heart of darkness lurking just below the surface, accessible to all but revealed to few? In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad provides the reader with the image of black vs. white in an attempt to convey the idea of an ever-present heart of darkness. Although the main plot of Conrad's tale is Marlow's journey into the African Congo, this merely sets the stage for a number of deeper themes. Marlow was a civilized man who believed in imperialism and the acquisition of wealth until he was faced with the horrors within the wilderness. The Afric... [tags: Heart Darkness essays]
1647 words (4.7 pages)
- In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, there are instances where readers would argue that he is racist. Conrad’s book is exceptionally challenging and he intentionally made it perplexing for the reader so that his attitude toward the racial issues in the book would be difficult to determine. Overall, though, the book is ironic in how cannibals are interpreted as pleasant and pilgrims as evil, and the contrast of language shows both Conrad and his narrator Marlow are not racist. Conrad takes sides with the oppressed cannibals in the story to indicate that they have some power over the pilgrims, which verifies that he is not racist.... [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Racism]
994 words (2.8 pages)
- The Opposition of Black and White in Heart of Darkness In Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad explores the psychological “heart of darkness” within all of humanity. The text looks at the European societies false illumination of civilization, of which obscures the internal darkness, in relation to the psychological environment in which human’s are placed. Conrad sets up the opposition of black and white to display the superficial pretense of light in the European society, and the true heart of darkness which is present within all of humanity.... [tags: Heart Darkness essays]
1228 words (3.5 pages)
- Opposing Forces in Heart of Darkness In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad sets up the opposing forces of black and white in order to convey the theme that every man has his own heart of darkness that is simply masked by the superficial light of civilization. The novella focuses primarily on Charlie Marlow's journey into the African Congo, but simultaneously deals with many underlying themes. Marlow understood the basic premises of imperialism, but was unprepared for the world he encountered while in the wilderness.... [tags: Heart Darkness essays]
1617 words (4.6 pages)
- The Light and Dark of Colonialism Exposed in Heart of Darkness In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, challenges a dominant view by exposing the evil nature and the darkness associated with the colonialist ventures. It is expressed by Marlow as "robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind - as it is very proper for those who tackle a darkness." The European colonialists are portrayed as blind lightbearers, people having a façade of progress and culture, yet are blind of their actions.... [tags: Heart Darkness essays]
1534 words (4.4 pages)
- 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]
1169 words (3.3 pages)
- 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]
1240 words (3.5 pages)
- 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]
1388 words (4 pages)
- 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]
1187 words (3.4 pages)