In the book, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, all the characters are pulled into a well of black despair. Conrad uses the darkness of the situation contrasted to the light of society to show man’s dependence on western morals, and how when these morals are challenged by the darkness, the light crumbles under its newly weakened foundation. The contrast between light and dark is most stark in the themes of setting, the changes in Europeans as they drive farther into the Congo, and the white man’s collapse under the ultimate darkness of the Innermost Congo.
The setting of Heart of Darkness is a very critical part of the book, and Conrad goes to extreme lengths to highlight the evil radiating from the region in which he sets his book. First, the tale is told in a frame story pattern, Marlow is relating his experience to friends in a setting different from that of the primary tale. But the setting where Marlow tells his tale is a foreshadow of what is to come. Marlow presents his story on a boat in the dark of night, creating a sense of evil surrounding the story. The darkness is so deep where Marlow rests during the telling of his tale, that he cannot see his friends, and instead tells the story to the darkness itself. Once the narrative begins, Conrad quickly places his character in another situation which only foretells of the place to which he is going. Within a Belgian office, Marlow examines a map of the area into which he is traveling, he describes it,
"...on one end a large shining map, marked with all the colours of a rainbow. There was a vast amount of red-good to see at any time, because one knows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lot of blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, on the...
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...s us human, but we must always understand that it is only a mask, and not the truth, because one day everyone will be faced with the darkness of the true nature of our world, and we will stare into the heart of the darkness, and it will break us, as it did to Kurtz, or enlighten us, as it did to Marlow.
Works Cited and Consulted
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1992.
Guerard, Albert J. Conrad the Novelist. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard U. Press, 1958.
Guerard, Albert J. "Heart of Darkness". TCLC. 13:114.
Karl, Fredrick R. "Heart of Darkness". TCLC. 6:121.
Kimbrough, Robert, ed. Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism. By Joseph Conrad. 3rd ed.
Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1988.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Joseph Conrad. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991.
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