Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness explores the intellectual, emotional and moral growth of characters throughout the novella. This character growth has been a recurring theme in literature, with the poet William Blake, among many others, exploring theories of the movement between innocence to experience. Although Conrad does not strictly address character growth in this manner, characters that do and do not undergo psychological growth are portrayed quite differently. Those who undergo these psychological changes are portrayed favorably, that is Marlow, the frame narrator, and Kurtz. These characters throughout the novel undergo significant change, for some it is gradual (Marlow), but for others such as Kurtz, this growth or realization occurs rapidly, and almost too late. While European colonialists - characters that do not grow, or remain at the stagnant psychological level - are used to represent the anti-colonialism theme to the readers. Conrad utilizes characters, and their psychological growth (or lack of growth) to distance himself from the narrative and endorse or criticize many themes that would be seen as revolutionary in the context of its publication. A large gap is then depicted between the characters who grow, portrayed as "enlightened" beings, and the pilgrims and European colonialists, who are seen in a colonial point of view as perfect examples of good, however portrayed by Conrad as stagnant, "Hollow men", whose aims and ideals are criticized.
The frame narrator, although not a major character in the novella, undergoes significant psychological growth throughout the text. This growth can be broadly divided into three phases - the initia...
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...hed ways of thinking, have a façade of bringing culture and progress to a world devoid of these elements, yet are merely "hollow men". They are merely acting as products for the indefinable aims of colonialism and in turn, move the readership to reject their ideals, emphasize the "enlightened" (those who grow) and encourage a similar psychological journey of the readership.
Conrad, J. (1995). Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Group.
Dintenfass, M. (1996, March) Heart of Darkness Lecture. [WWW document] URL http://www.lawrence.edu
Maes-Jelinek, H. Notes on Heart of Darkness
Moon, B. (1992). Literary Terms A practical Glossary. Perth: Chalkface Press P/L
Analysis of Major Characters. [WWW document] URL http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/heart/characteranalysis.htm
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