In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Bharati Mukherjee's Jasmine, the physical journey represents the setting for the psychological journey that both main characters undergo. Each stage of the journey is correlated to an emotional insight, and the implications are great enough to incur a change in the protagonists' lives. Through the discovery of distant lands and foreign ideas, Marlow and Jasmine are prompted to look internally to find the answers to their questions. Their struggles are personal, and they are driven by different guiding forces, yet both experience a greater sense of self-awareness by the end of their journey.
Initially, Marlow and Jasmine embark on physical journeys involving movement over water. Marlow's fascination with the Congo River drives him to set out in search of the unknown, to fulfill his longing to explore the "blank spaces" of the map (Conrad 5). Marlow first crosses the English Channel to Brussels, a city that elicits an image of a "whited sepulcher" (7), which serves as an omen of the events that are about to unfold. The city, and the operation of the trading company, appear on the surface to be benevolent, but hidden at the very core are darkness and corruption. Jasmine's journey begins under quite different circumstances. She also crosses the ocean in search of a new and mysterious land, but for a very unique reason. Leaving Jyoti behind, Jasmine travels a long and indirect route to Florida where she intends to throw herself onto a funeral pyre in the custom of a traditional Indian widow.
The further from home Marlow and Jasmine travel, the more alienated they feel from the world and the people around them. Viewing the coas...
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...e face in life. Both novels address influences that guide us through our spiritual lives, and how they potentially affect our decisions and choices. Marlow does not reach this understanding until he leaves a place of modernity and travels "back to the earliest beginnings of the world" (30), returning to Europe at the end of his journey a changed man. Conversely, Jasmine is able to progress emotionally and achieve personal fulfillment once she leaves the antiquated society of India for the United States. The ambiguity of Heart of Darkness and Jasmine accurately reflects the fluid and unpredictable nature of our own existence, and the adversity we must surmount in our journey through life.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902. New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1990.
Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine. 1989. New York: Ballantine Books, 1991.
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