Essay on Portrayal of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Essay on Portrayal of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Length: 876 words (2.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Portrayal of Women in Heart of Darkness

 
    In his novel, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad exposes the evil lurking in the soul of mankind; but this corruption is hidden from the innocent European women. Conrad?s novel depicts women simplistically in black and white ? without any confusing shades of gray. There are the innocent white European women who must -- for society's sake -- be misinformed, and the black African she-beast ? the antithesis to civilization's order.

 

Those exposed to the corruption either embrace the wickedness, as does Kurtz, or resist it and become enlightened.  But the innocent European women swallow the lies of the colonial administration.  If "Conrad was appalled by the 'high-sounding rhetoric' that had been used to mask the 'sordid ambitions' of King Leopold II of Belgium" (Brantlinger 279), he was surely also disturbed by the applause given such rhetoric by the innocent European women. Yet Marlow, enlightened during his unpleasant sojourn in the Congo, does not opt to tell the truth and destroy the female naiveté. Ignorant of the existence of chain gangs, groves of perishing Africans and the like, Marlow's aunt talks "about 'weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways'" (Conrad 27). Her nephew, about to step into the "heart of darkness," might "venture to hint that the company was run for profit" (Conrad 27), but she sees only the white man's burden. No, her nephew must be no mere harvester of ivory and rubber. For her, he is a torch-bearer on the vanguard of civilization. Thus -- noting her delusion -- Marlow tells his listeners that

 

[women] live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, an...


... middle of paper ...


...e is mother of savages.

 

    Thus, Conrad paints a male world torn between two feminine poles: the civilized, white woman who must -- for society's sake -- be misinformed, and the black she-beast -- antithesis to civilization's order and trigger of primeval emotions.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Brantlinger, Patrick. "Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism?"  Murfin 277-298.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Murfin 17-95.

Murfin, Ross C., ed. Heart of Darkness: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Five

Contemporary Critical Perspectives. 2nd ed. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's P, 1996.

Smith, Johanna M. "'Too Beautiful Altogether': Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness." Murfin 169-184.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Portrayal of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- Women have gained equality with men over the many centuries of the evolution of the modern western civilization. Hence, it cannot be overlooked that there still exist many literary examples of social disregard for woman potential. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" exemplifies the Western patriarchal gender roles in which women are given the inferior status.<p> Not only are women portrayed as being inferior to men, but Marlow's (the protagonist's) seldom mentioning of them in his Congo adventure narrative symbolizes his view of their insignificance....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness]

Better Essays
1190 words (3.4 pages)

Portrayal of Light and Darkness through Characters in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

- In the novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses many literary devices to create, for his readers, a vivid picture of what his definition of light and darkness really is. Conrad suggestively uses a technique whereas for every one character that portrays darkness there is an opposite character that portrays some extent of light. This technique can be explained in the form of comparison and contrast, for instance the “Harlequin” and the Manager. Though these two characters share few comparisons, their contrasts are one in a plenty....   [tags: heart of darkness]

Better Essays
788 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- Joseph Conrad’s s book Heart of Darkness portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical land of Africa as “so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness”, (Conrad 154) as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life. Conrad lived through a time when European colonies were spread all over the world. This event and the doctrine of colonialism bought into at his time obviously influenced his views at the time of Heart of Darkness publication....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Human]

Better Essays
1441 words (4.1 pages)

The Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad Essay

- Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the story of a man’s journey deep into the Congo. The title, however, is unclear as to what or which “heart of darkness” he is moving towards. The man, Marlow, enters the center of the continent of Africa, often seen as a place of darkness in the light of European civilization. But soon he experiences the the fullest extent of human depravity and cruelty enacted on an innocent civilization for the accumulation of wealth. However, the heart of darkness that Marlow finds himself in may be less a metaphorical one and more of a metaphysical one....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Charles Marlow]

Better Essays
1116 words (3.2 pages)

Chaos Theory Portrayal In Heart Of Darkness Essay example

- In Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, the strongest conflict is an internal conflict that is most prominently shown in Marlow and Kurtz. This conflict is the struggle between their image of themselves as civilized human beings and the ease of abandoning their morality once they leave society. This inability has a close resemblance to the chaos theory. This is shown through the contrast of Kurtz as told by others and the actuality of him and through the progression of Marlow's character throughout Heart of Darkness....   [tags: Joseph Conrad]

Free Essays
1125 words (3.2 pages)

Analysis Of Joseph Conrad 's Heart Of Darkness Essay

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of a hero is “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad explores the way greed and jealousy seize the goodness in a man’s heart, as well as the possibility of them becoming a courageous character. In his novel, Conrad displays that although Marlow and Kurtz are perceived as heroes due to their moral and noble attributes, they are unable to become true heroes. Their lust towards power and control over land and ivory ultimately expands the desire and expansion of darkness in the hearts of people who once had good intentions....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Hero, Novel]

Better Essays
1261 words (3.6 pages)

The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Women have taken an increasingly important role in literature. Only recently have authors portrayed women in a dominant, protagonistic light. Sophocles and other classical writers portrayed women more as reactors than heroines. Since the ancient Greeks, however, a trend has been established that gives women characters much more substance and purpose. A definite shift from the antediluvian ways can be seen, and the overall complexity of women characters has increased exponentially....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness]

Better Essays
968 words (2.8 pages)

The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essays

- The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is more than a mere exploration of the harsh realities of European colonialism in Africa during the late nineteenth century. In fact, it is rich in symbolism as demonstrated by his negative portrayal of women. Conrad chooses his language well, for his prejudice towards women is easily recognizable. To him, women were nothing more than soft, delicate, and naive. However, Conrad's condemnation of women is no longer a valid interpretation of women in the 21st century; thus, we must overlook Conrad's invalid judgment of women and take a modernistic approach in scrutinizing the women's actual repres...   [tags: Heart Darkness essays Joseph Conrad]

Better Essays
1476 words (4.2 pages)

Maliciousness Exposed in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- Foolishness and Maliciousness in Exposed in Heart of Darkness        Joseph Conrad paralleled the Eldorado Expedition in his novel Heart of Darkness with the Katanga Expedition of 1890-1892. By doing so, he illustrated the folly and malevolence of the leaders of the Katanga Expedition and of Imperialist profiteers in general. The foundations for the Katanga Expedition were laid in 1883 when King Leopold proposed that he would leave the Congo state to Belgium in his will if he could borrow 25 million francs without interest to finance development of the area....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Better Essays
791 words (2.3 pages)

An Analysis of Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- An Analysis of Conrad's Heart of Darkness In the twentieth century, nihilistic themes, such as moral degeneration, man's bestial instincts at the core of the soul, and cosmic purposelessness, have preoccupied many works of literature and philosophy....   [tags: Conrad Heart Darkness]

Better Essays
1464 words (4.2 pages)