Heart of Darkness is a social commentary on imperialism, but the characters and symbols in the book have a meaning for both the psychological and cultural aspects of Marlow’s journey. Within the framework of Marlow’s psychedelic experience is an exploration of the views the European man holds of the African man. These views express the conflict between the civilized and the savage, the modern and the primordial, the individual and the collective, the moral and the amoral, that is part of the general psychedelic experience. Marlow, as a modern European man, cannot escape the arrogance of the civilized, cannot accept the jungle as an equally important part of a whole reality, but he gains some kind of knowledge of its importance—hence his conflicting depiction of the Africans. He finds that civilized men can be much worse than the Africans because civilization is merely a refusal to acknowledge truth. The world of surface-realities cannot hold because it is a world of partial fantasy. Marlow’s civilized notions, his inability to accept what is incomprehensible to him, prevents him from shedding the intellectual arrogance and moral superiority of the civilized. Most of the time Marlow does not realize when he is being arrogant, but sometimes he is aware of his own cultural bias.
Marlow says that the colonizer who goes to Africa must meet the jungle with “ ‘his own true st...
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...prove or fully understand emotion.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Editor Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton, 1988.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Editor Paul O’Prey. Middlesex: Penquin Books Ltd., 1983.
Cox, C. B. Conrad: Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, and Under Western Eyes. London: Macmillan Education Ltd., 1987.
Guetti, James. ‘Heart of Darkness and the Failure of the Imagination’, Sewanee Review LXXIII, No. 3 (Summer 1965), pp. 488-502. Ed. C. B. Cox.
Ruthven, K. K. ‘The Savage God: Conrad and Lawrence,’ Critical Quarterly, x, nos 1& 2 (Spring and Summer 1968), pp. 41-6. Ed. C. B. Cox.
Watts, Cedric. A Preface to Conrad. Essex: Longman Group UK Limited, 1993.
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