Symbolism has long been a tool of the storyteller, finding its
origins in the folklore of our earliest civilizations. In more recent years,
however, symbolism has taken on a new role, forming the skeleton upon which
the storyteller builds the tales of his or hers thoughts and adventures.
Knowing the power of this element, Joseph Conrad uses symbols to help the
reader explore dark interiors of men. The symbols become a vehicle that
carry the audience from stop to stop, the ride becoming an evaluation of
the darkness contained inside the hearts of mankind. Through the use of
Dark Africa as an overpowering symbol, Conrad's Heart of Darkness tells a
story that evaluates man's tendencies to fall back on barbaric methods when
not protected by civilization.
As Marlow proceeded through the jungle towards the uncivilized
world of Kurtz, he said, of the men they passed , "They passed me within
six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of
unhappy savages"(Conrad, 80). Marlow's advancements into the jungle, acted
parallel with my discovery: In our deepest nature, all men are savages.
Marlow connects with the very backbone in which constitutes Conrad's theme
"The shade of the original Kurtz frequented the beside of the hollow sham,
whose fate it was buried presently in the mold of primeval earth. But both
diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated
fought for the possession of that soul satisfied with primitive emotions,
avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success
... middle of paper ...
...his goals have not been met; he died
and so did his society.
Marlow and Kurtz could be considered as two conditions of human
existence, Kurtz representing what Man could become if left to his own
intrinsic devices outside protective society. Marlow, then, representing a
pure untainted civilized soul who has not been drawn to savagery by a dark,
alienated jungle. According to Conrad, the will to give into the
uncivilized man does not just reside in Kurtz alone. Every man has inside
himself a heart of darkness. This heart is drowned in a bath of light shed
by the advent of civilization. No man is an island, and no man can live on
an island without becoming a brutal savage. Inside his heart lies the raw
evil of untamed lifestyles.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness, New York: Dover, 1990.
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