Stevenson and Conrad: The Duality of Human Nature Essay

Stevenson and Conrad: The Duality of Human Nature Essay

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Conrad also employs the literary device of symbolism to further display the theme, the duality of human nature in his novella Heart of Darkness. Three major examples of symbolism are evident in this novella. These examples include, light and dark, the Congo River, and ivory. Similar to Stevenson, Conrad uses light and dark symbolism throughout his novella. Yet curiously in Heart of Darkness, light does not symbolize genuine goodness nor does dark symbolize pure calamity. Marlow proves this when he says as a comment to the Nellie’s sailors that, “I know that the sunlight can be made to lie, too” (Conrad 1944). The true essence of the light and dark symbolism is portrayed when Marlow compares the white men to the black men, concluding that these men are all the same. In Heart of Darkness, the symbolizing of light and dark actually represents the duality of human nature, a universal condition, which affects all men despite their skin color. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s voyage up the Congo River represents Marlow’s own inward journey. As Marlow advances up the river in search for Kurtz, he begins to learn more and more about himself. Nearing the end of his voyage up the Congo River, Marlow realizes he has more in common with the natives than with the European imperialists. At the end of his journey, when Marlow finally reaches Kurtz, he has learned that everybody has a dark side, but some people learned how to conceal it better than others. The third example of symbolism is ivory. In Heart of Darkness, ivory symbolizes greed and the calamitous nature of man, or the evil side. All throughout the novella the agents and managers of the Company are consumed by obtaining ivory. So much so, that they abandon all their moral principles and...


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...hout the strains of one’s divided nature. Both authors, despite their varying approaches, use the literary devices of symbolism and personification to preserve this controversial yet crucial theme of duality. This is to be found prominently in late and modern Victorian works such as the intriguing novellas by Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad.




Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of Darkness." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. By Stephen Greenblatt and M. H. Abrams. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 1891 1947. Print.
Klin, Candyce. “Darwinism as A Cultural Issue” Cedar Crest College, 2 June 2001. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
Stevenson, Robert L. "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. By Stephen Greenblatt and M. H. Abrams. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 1643-1685. Print.

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Stevenson and Conrad: The Duality of Human Nature Essay

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