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. The world of the African jungle does not abide by the same laws with which Marlow had been raised in civilized Europe. There is an inherent savagery in the jungle that Marlow had not previously encountered and therefore for which he was unprepared. This is first apparent when Marlow encounters the shaded death grove early on in his journeys. Marlow witnesses the natives suffering immensely for what seemed to be nothing - their work seemed for naught - but he does not speak up or stop his trek.
This is also the first time that the reader gets a glimpse of the underlying oppositions within the text. Marlow glances at one of the dying natives, one with a piece of white European yarn tied around his neck. In the area that is the O...
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...Jan. 1996). Online Internet. 3 October 1998.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. 17th ed. New York: Norton, 1988.
Levenson, Michael. "The Value of Facts in the Heart of Darkness." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 40 (1985):351-80.
Rosmarin, Adena. "Darkening the Reader: Reader Response Criticism and Heart of Darkness." Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness:
A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism. Ed. Ross C. Murfin. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.
Watt, Ian. Conrad in the Nineteenth Century. San Diego: U. of California P, 1979. 168-200, 249-53.
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