Symbols and Symbolism Essay: Color as a Tool in Heart of Darkness

Symbols and Symbolism Essay: Color as a Tool in Heart of Darkness

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Color as a Tool of Symbolism in Heart of Darkness  


Color is used very effectively as a tool of symbolism in Heart of Darkness. Colors, especially black and white, are used to symbolize evil (black) and good (white). Other colors are also used, although less often than black and white. Throughout the story, people are thought to have white souls or black souls depending on their innate “goodness” or “badness” or the role they are fulfilling at the time. The color of a person’s soul is often contrasted to the color of their skin. A black- souled, white-skinned person is thought to be evil and dishonest. “I met a white man in such an unexpected elegance of getup…” (Conrad p.21). This demonstrates how a white man was not expected to be a good person. Elegance of dress was unexpected because the man was white. In comparison, a white-souled, black-skinned person is thought to be truthful and full of integrity. “An athletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poor predecessor….thought all the world of himself.” (Conrad p.45). People are described as black with hatred regardless of skin color. This is further evidence of black being used synonymously with evil. Black isn’t just used to describe evil people. “Often far away, I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall…” (Conrad p. 14.) The symbolism of black wool at the door of Darkness is clearly pointing to evil, and further supports black as evil. Heath 2 Colors other than black and white are used to describe moods and attitudes past the basic good and evil. Red signifies industry. “There was a vast amount of red - good to see at any time because one knows that some real work is done in there.” (Conrad p.13). Yellow is seen as a cowardly color. “I was going into the yellow. Dead in the center.” (Conrad p.13). Pale denotes Death. It is also used this way in the Bible, “the Pale horse and his rider Death”, Revelations 6:8. “She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning. It was more than a year since his death…” (Conrad p. 72-73). The use of color is effective in the story for a variety of reasons. First, it is easy to understand.

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Second, colors are simple to identify, and recognizable colors are used in the book. Anyone able to read this book already knows the colors. Last, the significance of a color stays consistent throughout the book. Black is always considered evil, and white always symbolizes good. Other colors retain their identity as well. Color as symbolism plays a large role in Heart of Darkness. Although good and evil are the thoughts most commonly identified by colors in the story, other concepts are represented by colors as well, including death, industry, and cowardice. The use of colors as symbols gives the reader another way of looking at ideas central to the theme of Heart of Darkness.

 

WORKS CITED

 Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness, A Norton Critical Edition. New York City: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1988.

 

Outline

 Thesis statement: Color is used very effectively as a tool of symbolism in Heart of Darkness.

 I. Colors, especially black and white, are used to symbolize evil (black) and good (white). A. People are said to have white souls or black souls depending on their innate “goodness” or “badness” or the role they are fulfilling at the time. The color of a person’s soul is often contrasted to the color of their skin. A black-souled, white-skinned person is thought to be evil and dishonest.

b. A white-souled, black-skinned person is thought to be truthful and full of integrity.

 People are described as “black with hatred” regardless of skin color. B. Black isn’t just used to describe evil people. C. Other colors are used to describe moods and attitudes past the basic good and evil, although less often than black and white. 1. Red denotes industry. 2. Yellow is seen as a cowardly color. 3. Pale denotes Death. Heath ii a. It is also used this way in the Bible, Revelations 6:8, the Pale horse and his rider “Death”. II. The use of color is effective. 1. It is easy to understand. 2. Colors are simple to identify, and recognizable colors are used in the book a. Anyone able to read this book already knows the colors. 3. The significance of a color is consistent throughout the book. a. Black always symbolizes evil. b. White always symbolizes good. c. Other colors retain their “identities” throughout the book.
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