Symbols and Symbolism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

Symbols and Symbolism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Symbols and Symbolism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness


        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

and power"(...

... 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.

Work Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness, New York: Dover, 1990.

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