Heart of Darkness
Analysis Of Joseph Conrad’s Novel Heart Of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has invoked discussion, discourse and diverse interpretation as to its nature, purpose and intention. This is largely due to its ambiguity and equivocation. Two eminent scholars, namely Florian Krobb and Patrick Brantlinger have tried to deconstruct the ambiguity which cloaks this novel. This article aims to further their pursuit of analysing the novella, keeping in mind the arguments put forth by them. Florian Krobb, in his article “Imaginary Conquest and Epistemology in Nineteenth-Century Adventure Literature” (2016) talks about some of Conrad’s contemporaries-Verne, May and Twain among others, authors well-versed in the genre of adventure fiction. Krobb asserts that devices used by the authors such as science fiction are mere props to lure young readers of those times to peruse these novels.
Moreover, the characters are imbibed with attributes such as “bravery, endurance, resourcefulness, patriotism…” so that the readers can identify with these ‘role models’. However, these end up serving an entirely different purpose altogether. In the case of Verne’s Cinq semains en ballon, Krobb points out how Verne highlights the past exploits of predecessors, i.e., the European explorers who have traversed these paths before, instead of focusing on the main topic under consideration: Africa’s natural environment and economic value. When it comes to writing about Africa and its inhabitants, Verne resorts to age-old stereotypes about the continent, clichéd stories prevalent in Europe at that time. Verne is concerned with dispensing geographical and cartographical knowledge about Africa to his European young readers. He mainly writes about the exploration of Africa by the Europeans and his main motive is to enlighten Europe’s young readers about the exploits of Barth, Denton, et al., explorers who have visited Africa in the past.
Throughout this novel, Africa is seen from a European point of view, rather than as an independent entity, as if its existence is solely to satiate European mentalities. The emphasis is on “civilising” Africa, a statement of European superiority. Similar evidence of this is present in Heart of Darkness when Marlow makes an observation, “…they shouted periodically together strings of amazing words that resembled no sounds of human language; and the deep murmurs of the crowd, interrupted suddenly, were like the responses of some satanic litany”. This is a classic example of Africa being seen from a European racist point of view. German novels belonging to this period of conquest of Africa are along similar lines. Two reputed German authors, Karl Burmann and Karl May’s novels regarding exploration in Africa are fraught with political overtones. Like Verne, their chief ulterior motive is to educate the German youth about the prospects of colonial expansion in Africa, by fabricating imaginary conquests in Africa. Their novels are replete with instances of the ‘backwardness’ of the indigenous peoples of Africa, and these novels seem to suggest ways to eradicate this primitiveness, reiterating their claim of European (here, specifically German) supremacy.
Rather chauvinistic, isn’t it? Now, Conrad in Heart of Darkness adopts a softer tone when it comes to emphasising the ‘backwardness’ of the Africans. Conrad, at times, sympathises with the predicament of the natives and even admires them. For example, Marlow observes,“…but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement…” when he sees a group of natives rowing a boat. This is different from the German novels, in which the ‘backwardness’ of the primitives was a given, a certitude unable to be refuted. Krobb cites an incident in Burmann’s book, Im Herzen von Afrika, to corroborate his claim; a native boy is taken under the apprenticeship of the German protagonists. In these highly bigoted and prejudiced novels, the German characters are to decide which natives will be their enemies and which ones their allies. May’s Sklavenkarawane goes a step further-it creates the perfect heroes, heroes skilled in various fields, superhumans even.
The German ‘superhumans’, so to speak, throw their weight around, policing the primitives, and in general, exercising their will. One can draw parallels here with a certain Mr. Kurtz, the antagonist in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Marlow’s fascination with him notwithstanding)-a megalomaniac, who coerces the natives to revere him as a god. Mr. Kurtz exercises undue influence over everything that happens at the Inner Station-he decides who lives and who dies. It has been argued that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is not based solely on his experiences in the Congo (an account of which is present in the Congo Diary) but draws heavily from press material and various other sources of those times.
The British press at that point of time had started divulging the atrocities carried out in King Leopold II’s territory of the Congo. The war between Leopold’s forces and the Arab slave-traders deserves a special mention here. Reports of cannibalism by officers, the press, etc. during that gory, unholy battle urged Conrad to include it as an integral part of his book. Brantlinger speculates that it may have been possible that multiple officers from this battle served as inspiration for the diabolical Kurtz. He gives examples of Arthur Hodister, Hinde and Captain Rom on whom Kurtz might have been modelled. Hinde wrote a particularly grotesque account on cannibalism during the war and it seems as if he relished every sadistic detail. Captain Rom went a step further and decorated his house with a ring of heads of twenty-one natives. Similar accounts of cannibalism are ubiquitous in Conrad’s book; the incident of the heads stuck on poles comes immediately to mind. He cites Molly Mahood’s The Colonial Encounter, in which she claims that Conrad did not see much of cannibalism in the Congo, despite it being a major part of his novella. Brantlinger makes an astute observation that Conrad includes all these elements of cannibalism but does not take pains to mention the Arab wars. It is likely that Conrad read about these events in the press and they served as possible inspiration for the cannibalistic events of his story.
Brantlinger describes Conrad’s novel as ‘impressionistic’, and with good reason. The novel contradicts itself in various stages. On one hand, Conrad is a detractor of the imperial strategies employed by the Europeans-he calls out on the sham of philanthropy and the desire to “civilise” the Africans which imperialists supposedly aspire to do. This intention of Conrad is made evident in the novella he penned down with Hueffer in The Inheritors. Conrad is more disgusted by the propaganda propagated by the imperialists rather than the violence they leave in their wake. On the other hand, Conrad treats the primitives as ‘inferior beings’, as savages. None of the ‘savages’ are accorded names, or voices. For all we know, Conrad might not think them to be humans at all. This is conspicuous when he says that Kurtz has “gone native”, a sort of slight on part of Conrad; Europeans in Africa become evil of no fault of theirs (Conrad insinuates); Africa, its people and its environment have made them malevolent and depraved. This theme of contradiction pervades the entire novel. It is evident by Marlow’s adulation for Kurtz and at the same time, his loathing of him as well. Marlow says, “His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines”. However, he delivers a contrasting statement later on when he says, “He was a remarkable man…and that is why I remained loyal to Kurtz till the very last”.
This impressionistic view which Conrad adopts is the reason why Heart of Darkness can be viewed as a unique piece at that time – he embraces an anti-imperialist stance yet the book has certain racist elements which cannot be ignored.
The Portrayals Of Imperialism in Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad And Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe
The portrayals of imperialism in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart contrast significantly. As Conrad portrays expansionism as a rough power deconstructing the savages and brutes. As opposed to Achebe delineates imperialism as a savage power deconstructing a refined and a culture of age.
In Achebe’s book language is an essential component. It gives them a sense of identity and safeguards their way of life and legacy. Though this is an important factor, this was also their fall. As they decline to send their kids to class to learn English. While Igbo culture venerates power and manliness, Okonkwo’s conduct is hyper masculine, showing itself through rampaged. Okonkwo is known as “a man of action, a man of war” Whereas the town of Umuofia is adaptable and negotiable. Huge numbers of the characteristics which to Okonkwo were signs of shortcoming are similar characteristics that were regarded by people. For example, despite the fact that Umuofia’s laws are clear, the people “can adapt their code to accommodate the less successful, even effeminate men, like Okonkwo’s father” , showing Umuofia’s resilience where Okonkwo could never acknowledge such “weakness.”
Also, where Okonkwo is impervious to change, Umuofia is more open and responsive, as later exhibited by Umuofia’s response to the evangelists in contrast with Okonkwo’s. Making Okonkwo an outcast from the rest. Once the missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo is totally unwilling to bargain. Truth be told, “He mourned for the clan, which he saw breaking up and falling apart, and he mourned for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women”. He sees the group’s efforts to co-existence concerning and weak since it does not take an active role in eliminating what he perceives as a threat. When stood up to the messenger, Okonkwo slaughters him with expectations of beginning a war against the missionaries, but instead the town rallies against him, as they asked, “For what reason did he do it?”
The fall of Igbo culture and the fall of Okonkwo can’t just be credited to their strong belief system and rooted cultural heritage. The reason for Things Fall Apart is to investigate the defects in the Igbo culture also additionally its qualities. Despite the fact that Achebe presents these defects to the reader that add to the decimation of their way of life; the principle explanation behind the fall of the Igbo was caused by their inability and hesitance to learn English since they trusted that they will never need to apply it in their regular day to day existences.
Likewise, the westerners were more grounded than the Igbo with respect to their advancement in current life and training, they had a more grounded impact and in addition controlling force. The preachers utilized a hostile methodology in taking over the decision forces of Igbo from its locals. They did this by spreading their beliefs and in the meantime taking apart Igbo conventional traditions and conviction. The westerners considered Igbo as unrefined people in need of their assistance. In spite of the fact that the intention of the entry of missionaries in Umuofia was to administer over its kin. Due to the colonization, Igbo lost the majority qualities that integrated them as one; social intelligibility bounded between the individual and society was lost, combined with their customary qualities also their lifestyle.
The entry of white preachers in Umuofia was to control over Igbo decisions as Igbo are a humane society they were clueless of the white men’s aims, they invited them into their territory and furthermore gave them a bit of their property not realizing that these men will be the reason for the fall of their way of life. In this way Okonkwo’s suicide is representative of the destruction of the clan, he was an image of the power and pride that the clan had and with its destruction, the clan’s ethical focus and structure gave way to a more dominant one. With his demise, the old lifestyle is gone until the end of time.
Conrad’s book which takes place within a thick, ‘dark’ and strange wildernesses encompassing in the Congo River. In the article “An Image of Africa” Achebe extremely scrutinises the presumptions presented by such “explorers” and censures the depiction of Africans in Heart of Darkness. Achebe rejects the long held belief of the alternate commentators who name the novel as a post-colonial novel since he thinks that it displayed a picture of Africa that was living in the Westerners minds. Achebe likewise discredits Conrad’s delineation of Africa as “a place of triumphant bestiality which functions as a ‘foil’ for an enlightened Europe”, and strikes back at Conrad’s utilization of ‘racist’ terms in depicting the African locals and what he thinks about a purposeful utilization of the narratives, which features the contrasts between the ‘whites’ and the ‘blacks’. Achebe shows such bigotry and debasing depiction, where Conrad gives uncommon portrayals of an African who is displayed as “he savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen”
Achebe sees Conrad’s work as a “projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world’’ the antithesis of Europe and, therefore, of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality”. As we see in heart of darkness that Conrad’s thinks of the Africans as crude and an undeveloped country, since they are set in a dull and an ancient setting. As Marlow’s portrayal expels recognizing attributes, like the depiction of the Africans themselves. Rather, the Africans are simply copies of one another who fill no other need than to be a piece of the landscape for the Europeans.
Conrad’s work outlines the wests thoughts that all Africans are the same: savage, crude, and brutal. To contrast this generalization, Achebe composed Things Fall Apart, demonstrating a cultivated and organized African culture. Tragically, the hero of Things Fall Apart was not an exact portrayal of an enlightened African. However, since he was a conspicuous individual from the society, as opposed to annihilate the stereotype, his fierce conduct and unwillingness to yield just reinforces the European’s beliefs about the locals.
Thus, through both works of Achebe we see how he expects the writer to be both cultural nationalist but also explain the tradition of the people of Africa. As in argues in the Essay “I am talking about a book which parades in the most vulgar fashion prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered untold agonies” because the African people did hear of culture for the first time from the west: that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth, value and dignity. The dignity that many African people had lost in the colonial period and it is this dignity that they must regain now. This is what I think is the most significant statement he made.
The Analysis Of The Novel “The Heart Of Darkness” By Joseph Conrad
The novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad has historically been regarded as a novel comprising of a variety of sexist as well as imperialist ideologies. The following essay analyses the two female characters, the Mistress and the Intended, who both possess contrasting class as well as racial backgrounds in order to emphasise the fact that these two women paradoxically through their agency demonstrate resistance to the Victorian societal norms, thus making them noteworthy, influential characters within the novel.The novel can be seen as an influential male text due to the fact that the narrator and protagonist as well as all the major and minor characters are European men whereas the female characters are reduced to minor roles and are not given names.
The novel has inspired over a century of criticism which has varied over the years. While the novel gained momentum in the late twentieth century, in this period, Postcolonial, feminist and Marxist critics disparaged the text’s treatment of Africans as well as women. Bode (1994) contends that despite criticism focusing on the theme of brotherhood within the novel, bonds of sisterhood within the novel exist simultaneously. Additionally, Bode implies that the two women complement the intents of each other, thus serving as each other’s reflections however, these ties are found within the literary devices comprised within the novel rather than through their actions. However, upon a closer reading of the text, it is evident that there exists more textually-based examples of agency and power through the Mistress and the Intended’s actions. The female characters within the novel have a vital yet invisible presence as it is through this invisibility that they are able to exert influence over their male counterparts. In the initial part of the novel before he embarks into the Congo region, Marlow states, “It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are! They live in a world of their own and there has never been anything like it and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before sunset” (p.16).
In this context, Marlow criticises his aunt and assumes that she is naïve about the possible dangers of his expedition. Marlow believes that women reside in an isolated world which is “too beautiful altogether” to be a sustainable reality. This dismissal is noteworthy as it reveals how female agency is restricted within the novel, yet these female characters nevertheless exert an influence over Marlow. When Marlow encounters the Mistress, it is said that she has already captivated Kurtz and her beauty temporarily captivates Marlow. However, after this moment, Marlow diverges the reader’s attention to the jungle in the background by implying that the Mistress possesses a dark aura. Within the novel, Marlow comments on the silence of the surrounding jungle. These mentions of silence on the surface appear to be isolated occurrences. However, when combining and contrasting them, silence can be seen as a powerful weapon within the novel. The Mistress utilises the silence in her interactions with the colonisers. This is made evident when Marlow states that, “in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.” (p.60). it is therefore evident that Marlow realises that the Mistress is not an object but rather a powerful force daring to be reckoned with. It is therefore evident that the Mistress expresses herself through her actions and the few passages containing her character are sufficient to highlight the subversive influence she has over Marlow as well as the rest of the colonisers and even Conrad himself.In the novel, the colonialist mindset of seeing Africans and particularly African women as inhabitants of the land becomes one of the Mistress’s strengths.
The colonisers are disparaging towards the jungle as they fear the darkness and perceive it as chaos. Through her alliance with this darkness, the Mistress has a mysterious hold on them. According to Morrison (1992) blackness, as well as darkness, need not be seen in a negative light but instead should pose as an answer to the static whiteness that is prevalent in Western texts. It is therefore evident that this depiction of darkness aids in the removal of the negative connotations that Marlow places on the African civilisation and additionally sheds light as to why Marlow fears the Mistress. By associating her with the darkness, Marlow sees her a symbol of chaos; the opposite of his preferred orderliness and stability. From the given extract and through the Mistress’s actions, it is evident through a close analysis that this passage indicates the inscrutable strength of the Mistress’s power. Marlow appears to be frightened of her due to the fact that her character is similar to the wilderness itself. The extract therefore symbolises the Mistress’s power of resilience and passion as well as highlights the reasons why Marlow and Conrad himself underestimate the power of the Mistress. The Mistress and the Intended are connected by their relationship with Kurtz despite their contrasting racial and class backgrounds. The Intended’s domestic role is however, mirrored with the Mistress due to her darkened surroundings, her ironic mimicking of the haunting aura of the Mistress and her control over her mourning of Kurtz.
According to Hawthorne (1999) while the Mistress was abused by Kurtz, the Intended was left in isolation to dream about him and in this manner, the agency of these two female characters within the novel can be regarded as limited and therefore, prevents any form of resistance. It can be argued that both of these women can be seen as defying the patriarchal authority and additionally, emphasise their refusal to conform to societal norms and expectations through their conduct. For the intended, this takes the form of resistance in the final chapter where Marlow’s narrative on women is contradicted. This is made evident when upon Marlow’s arrival, the Intended’s darkened house and clothing contradict Marlow’s depiction of purity and this occurrence therefore highlights the connection between the Mistress and the Intended. Marlow expects the Intended to behave in a certain manner, constantly idealizing her fair skin and white forehead. In this manner, the Intended is seen as a representation of light for both Marlow and Kurtz on their journey. When Marlow accidently mentions Kurtz’s Intended during his storytelling, his composure shifts, and he becomes uncomfortable. This is made evident when he states, “Girl? What! Did I mention a girl? Oh, she is out of it- completely. They-the women I mean- are out of it-should be out of it. We must help them stay in that beautiful world of their own lest ours gets worse” (p.49).
Marlow’s points are erratic and jumbled, highlighting the fact that Marlow needs the two female characters to remain in their places and when they unexpectedly enter his story, he becomes uncomfortable.The attribution of this female character to a symbol of purity and light highlights the possible power that this female character possesses over her male counterparts. When the Intended does not conform to the requirements of this symbol, her resistance is intimidating for Marlow as she then can be seen as altering the male heroic narrative Conrad attempts to complete. This is made evident due to the fact that Marlow becomes uncomfortable within the Intended’s house as unlike his aunt, she not does not argue for colonization but rather forces Marlow to explain the details about his experience with Kurtz, making his attempt to lie even more problematic. Marlow states that his reason for visiting the Intended is “unconscious loyalty” but thereafter states that, “he had no clear perception of what it was he really wanted” (p.72). It can therefore be implied that Marlow’s reason for visiting the Intended is for closure for himself as opposed to her and his visit to the Intended signifies the collision of the two worlds of Belgian colonialism and the realities of European domestic life. Marlow describes a “tall marble fireplace” which is “cold and monumental” and the grand piano that “stood massively in the corner; with dark gleams on the flat surfaces like a somber and polished sarcophagus.” (p.73). the depiction of the contrasting black and white imagery is symbolic of Marlow’s struggle to separate himself from the darkness following him home from his journey. Thereafter, upon her arrival into the drawing room, all Marlow sees is her “fair hair, this pale visage, this pure brow” (p.73) and ignores her morbid appearance as he is aiming to take refuge in her light and fairness. When the Intended insisted upon the fact that she knew Kurtz better than Marlow, Marlow responds with “You knew him best,’ I repeated. And perhaps she did.” (p.73).
Once Marlow states this, he describes how the room became dimmer and only “her forehead smooth and white remained illuminated by the inextinguishable light of belief and love.” (p.73) The fact that Marlow fixates upon her symbolic physical attributes emphasises the fact that Marlow intends to keep the Intended in her prescribed domestic state, despite the obvious collision and influence of the two worlds he has experienced over the course of his journey.When analysing the extract given, it becomes evident that the Intended unconsciously mirrors the Mistress’s movement through her actions and physical appearance. The Intended is described with both of her arms “black” and “pale” symbolising the combination of the binary of black and white. The Intended additionally represents the “Shade” of the African Mistress highlighting the fact that Marlow will not receive the closure he so desperately seeks as the Mistress’s influence is still evident.
Overall, it can be depicted that Marlow’s fear in encountering both female characters are vital to a novel, largely controlled by his actions as through their agency, the female characters within the novel prove their influence as well as their importance. The novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad can therefore be seen as an ironic text due to the fact that despite Marlow and evidently, Conrad himself, aiming to reduce the female characters to mere insignificant symbols in order to restrain them, the Mistress and the Intended can, through a critical close analysis, be seen as symbols of the disruption of imperialist binaries as well as powerful archetypes of female power through Conrad’s utilisation of literary devices and female agency within the novel.
A Question Of Human Existence in Frankenstein, Beowulf And Heart Of Darkness
Mid-Term Theme Essay Rough Draft
A theme is a serious attempt by an author to observe and record life in order to reveal some truth or some common characteristic of life. Themes aim to uncover aspects of a common human existence; and because these themes discuss the common human existence, universal truths have been revealed in separate bodies of literature. The observations made in assorted literature texts converge in an attempt to answer the timeless question: what is the meaning of being distinctly human? And although various writings have tried to respond to the posed question, a similar insight has been highlighted: humans are defined by the three pieces of Frankenstein, Beowulf, and Heart of Darkness coincide upon the same insight.
One shared topic of literature concerns characters and their struggle against monsters. Through character development, the universal notion that those who pursue monsters obsessively inevitably become one as well is revealed. This change is often fueled by ambition and the natural human instinct to be recognized and admired.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein creates a creature whom he brings to life; however, Victor spends the rest of his life in pursuit of the monster he has made. Initially, the monster is a permutation of his creator. For example, although the monster is made in the form of man, his grotesque combination of features and large stature sets him apart; also, just as Victor isolated himself from society and “procrastinate[d] all that related to…[his]…feelings of affection until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of..[his]…nature, should be completed”, the monster is isolated from society (Shelley 33). However, because of Victor’s denial and hate of the monster, he becomes one himself. Victor begins to see the monster’s actions as his actions as well; although it is the monster that has murdered William, Justine, and Henry, Victor Frankenstein “called…[himself]… the murderer of William, of Justine, and of Clerval. Sometimes…[he]…intreated my attendants to assist…[him] in the destruction of the fiend by whom I was tormented” (130). Frankenstein has created a monster, and in doing so has monster of himself because of his refusal to accept his creation. This morphing into a beast is initiated by ambition and intense desire for recognition.
In the epic poem Beowulf, the main character battles monsters in the pursuit of personal glory. However, in this pursuit, Beowulf shares characteristics with monsters he fights, ultimately becoming a monster in his own form. The first monster Beowulf battles is Grendel. Grendel is a monster that has been isolated from society because of his monstrosity and his grotesqueness. In a similar sense, Beowulf isolates himself from the community bond in his desire for glory: he attempts to fights each battle alone. In the description of the battle, both Beowulf’s and Grendel’s are paralleled: both, “venturing closer / his talon was raised to attack Beowulf / where he lay on the bed; he was bearing in / with open claw when the alert hero’s / comeback and armlock forestalled him utterly. / The captain of evil discovered himself / in a handgrip harder than anything / he had ever encountered in any man / on the face of earth”, are portrayed as good wrestlers and as warriors who refuse to give up. Beowulf is similar to the dragon as well. Just “as was the dragon, / for all his long leasehold on the treasure,” Beowulf hoards glory (Heaney 159). In fact, it is Beowulf’s ambition and pursuit of glory that leads to his death when he claims that “This fight is not yours, / nor is it up to any man except [him] / to measure his strength against the monster / or to prove his worth. [He] shall win the gold / by [his] courage, or else mortal combat, / doom of battle, will bear your lord away,” (171). In the end, Beowulf’s shared characteristics with the monsters is what causes to become one in the sense that his desire for glory is his motivation.
In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz, motivated by ambition as well, becomes the monster he is trying contend with. Kurtz decides to go into the depths of Africa in pursuit of ivory, with the ambition of selling it and making money. However, as he fights against the native “savages”, his brutality ironically makes him a savage monster as well. During his stay in Africa, as Kurtz took advantage of the natives, he began to “forget himself amongst [those] people…forget himself” (Conrad 52).
Kurtz’s Madness In The Heart of Darkness
The Nature of “The Horror” in Heart of Darkness
It seems Joseph Conrad wanted readers to pity Kurtz. Here was a man described as “a prodigy”, an “emissary of pity, science, and progress”, who allowed himself to be consumed by his lust for power (Conrad 25). The author creates this pity most profoundly during Marlow’s meeting of Kurtz’s Intended. Unlike Marlow, Kurtz’s fiancee is only aware of one aspect of Kurtz, the one who had the “generous mind” and “noble heart” (75). There is a sharp contrast between the Kurtz described by the brickmaker (the Kurtz as an “emissary of pity, science, and progress” (25), the Kurtz described by Kurtz’s fiancee, and the Kurtz Marlow comes to discover attempting to evade capture deep within the Congo, and it is within these contrasts between these different aspects of Kurtz that I came to understand what Kurtz meant by “the horror” (59; 69). The horror is not, as I had previously thought, a demonstration to the extent of Kurtz’s madness. The horror is not an act of repentance on behalf of the sins committed in one’s life. The horror is not found in the labors of a painful, laborious death, or is it a supernatural entity bent on eternal punishment. The horror Kurtz spoke of was found in that sudden recognition where one realizes the act of dying itself ( “I am lying here in the dark waiting for death” (69). The recognition of the act of dying is not the same as the realization of mortality. Mortality seems to be focused on the state of being subjected to death and not so much on experiencing death. For Kurtz, the horror was found in the recognition that one was dying, and with that knowledge it brings a sudden awareness of how close one is knowing what was once unknowable, including the possibility that the efforts put into one’s life may be inherently meaningless. For a man like Kurtz, someone who has devoted himself completely to the Imperialist cause, these contemplations are devastating. After all, Kurtz wanted to meet “kings at railroad stations” days before death (68). Prior to that, Kurtz lived within the Inner Station like some sort of demigod where the natives obeyed his commands (56-60). After Kurtz escaped the steamboat in an attempt to return to the Inner Station, he spoke of having “had immense plans” which deepened the context of the pamphlet Marlow read where Kurtz wrote “we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might as if a deity” (65;50). To go to such a length just for sake of ivory seems to be a bit unnecessary to me; however, the lengths Kurtz is willing to go in order to ensure his success in his endeavors demonstrates why “the horror” would have such an immense impact on a man like Kurtz.
Still, I find it interesting how Marlow was impacted by “the horror”. To Marlow, Kurtz’s words demonstrated exactly why he thought he thought Kurtz to be a remarkable man (“I have wrestled with death, and it is the most unexciting contest you can imagine…He (Kurtz) had summed it up—He had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man…It was an affirmation, a moral victory” (70). The horror Kurtz experienced did not cause Marlow to endure a strong sense of dread or futility in his life; instead, it seems to have been a comparison between how the two experienced death. “The Horror” to Marlow seemed to have been a rallying cry, a phrase uttered to prove that one had something to offer besides wandering in an “atmosphere of tepid scepticism” (70). For Marlow, as long as one had something to say in the face of death, no matter what it is, proves that one’s life is notable. I am not sure if I can completely agree with Marlow’s view. Kurtz may have been a “remarkable man” to Marlow simply because he had something to say; however, Kurtz lived a life so saturated in indulgence that it ruined the lives of the people around him—-People like the Harlequin who seemed to pay little mind to Kurtz wanting to kill him, and Kurtz’s fiancee who was so distraught in her mourning over Kurtz that Marlow felt he needed to lie about Kurtz’s final words (70,56;77). Personally, I found Marlow’s flirtation with death more preferable even if it is “the most unexciting contest you can imagine” (70). Kurtz may have had something to say, but look at the lengths he took to say it, the circumstances he had to live through in order to sum up his life as “The horror! The horror!” (69). It does not seem worth the suffering.
A Colony Issue in “Things Fall Apart” And “Heart of Darkness”
In ‘Things Fall Apart’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ discuss the impact on culture of colonialist rule
European nations implemented and spread their forms of government, religion and culture to the countries that they had colonised such as the Igbo tribe in Nigeria and the Fang tribe in Congo. Colonial rule has been the core event in Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ and Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. Both authors portray the culture before and after the colonisation and allow the reader to self-perceive whether colonialist rule has impacted the cultures in a positive or negative way.
Prior to the British colonisation, Achebe in ‘Things Fall Apart’ portrayed the Igbo people as a strong and proud tribe, a tribe which did not accept a man to show “signs of weakness”. The Igbo tribe found entertainment in the sport of wrestling which was endeavoured an elite sport a male could take part in which was seen “throughout the nine villages and even beyond” demonstrating the popularity and importance of the sport. A man’s “personal achievements” would bring him “fame” and “honour” in wrestling so it was deemed that “cowards” such as Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, may not be exemplified as a man. Achebe also presented how the Igbo people followed democratic system which judged each man fairly according to the crime they may or may not have committed. This judicial system was carried out where the whole tribe would come to witness and carried forth by the “six elders” of the clan. Achebe reveals to the reader how the Igbo people have formulated a way of life in which works effectively for them.
The coming of the British slowly began to destroy the traditional cultures that existed within the Igbo society in ‘Things Fall Apart’. The British government would intrude on tribal matters and impose their own ways of solving the problem as they believe fit rather than allowing the Igbo people to settle their own issues, suitable to their customs. The first instance in which the British enforce their penal justice occurs when the six elders are taken for hostages and force the village to pay “two hundred bags of cowries”. This type of so-called justice illustrates the British in a harsh and malevolent light. Firstly, the Commissioner wants to bring in his men “so that they too can hear your grievances and take warning” when in fact the British are being deceitful and captured the six men, it highlights the corruption: there is no justice for the Ibo people. Furthermore, with regards to the deceitful nature presented by the Commissioner, it is evident that the British colonisers are oppressing the Igbo people; therefore it highlights to the reader how their impact on culture can be perceived as negative. The struggle of the protagonist Okonkwo emphasises how the shift in power has affected the culture and Okonkwo himself for he is “choked with hate”. Achebe utilises “choked” effectively here as the anger the colonists have rendered upon Okonkwo is almost suffocating: life threatening. “Choked with hate” also depicts how deeply enraged Okonkwo is and how he is essentially powerless in this situation. The effectiveness of Achebe structuring this so near to the end of novel is that it allows the reader to understand the aftermath of the colonisation, how it has impacted the Igbo culture and how it has rendered the most powerful men of the Igbo tribe powerless. However, Achebe also intended to show the readers what fractures existed within the Igbo culture. Achebe articulates how the protagonist “heard an infant crying in the Evil Forest, where newborn twins are left to die.” The Igbo people fear twins, who are to be abandoned immediately after birth and left to die of exposure. Abandoning new born twins is typically seen as a natural event that existed within the Igbo culture as twins were identified as an “abomination”; however, this rather inhuman act gives an indication to the reader that the forthcoming British colonisers may change these merciless and illogical actions. Although the eradication of new born twins was identified as the social norm in this particular culture, the reader most definitely will believe this act to be a malicious one.
Cultural divide and the imposition of western values which Achebe presents as corrupt are present in ‘Things Fall Apart’ as “the elders of the clan had decided that Ikemefuna should be in Okonkwo’s care for a while”. Ikemefuna has not been given a choice but has been placed under control by a higher power without regards to his own personal welfare and how Ikemefuna himself may feel on the matter: parallel to the British colonisers taking over. Achebe demonstrates how colonial rule has proved beneficial since it has disregarded the sadistic and rather inhumane procedures of the Igbo people such as how they promote cultural violence. For example, Okonkwo despises his father for he was a “coward” and “could not bear the sight of blood”. Within the Igbo culture the male was to prove his manhood through wrestling and gaining “titles” which in due course would bring “fame”. Achebe furthers the idea of the Igbo people promoting cultural violence for “Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness”. Okonkwo hates his own flesh and blood for he portrays weakness as he doesn’t fight, therefore he is a “coward”. The Igbo people such as the protagonist Okonkwo are so fixated on the idea that anger and violence is the only way in which a man should conduct himself and how “the only thing worth demonstrating was strength” Through Achebe’s writing, it is clear that the vicious nature of the Igbo people, ultimately indicating to the reader that change is necessary and colonialism can promote positive change. This type of violence can be seen in certain practices they have such as ritual sacrifices and punishment for crimes, may that be paying a fine, exile, or even death in certain circumstances.
Nonetheless, although Achebe shows the cultural traditions of the Igbo people to have an abnormal way of dealing with matters; Achebe believes the European views toward Africans are mistaken. According to Diana Akers Rhoads, “the British have superimposed a system which leads to bribery and corruption rather than to progress.” By contrast, the Igbo people have formulated a democratic system which judges each man fairly according to the crime they may or may not have committed. The Igbo’s justice system involves all members of the community. The roles of judges are played by the “egwugwu”, which are citizens from the village who wear masks. The Igbo people discuss how the masks represent the ancestral spirits of the village and as a result, pass judgment upon the accused. Each person who brings a complaint to the “egwugwu” gets a trail in which both sides will plead their case in attempt to prove their innocence, such as prosecutors and defenders in a legal court. After hearing both sides have pleaded their case, the judges will discuss and confer with one another, and then decide the best course of action. Often, if the case requires the person whom committed the crime punishment, it will be a very public one, usually carried out by all members of the village. However, all this changed when the missionaries arrived. The Igbo people become subject to laws and punishment which are none of their own, but merely demonstrate “humiliation and domination”. As a result of the corruption following the British hierarchical system it demonstrates the negatives of colonial rule in this segment and highlights how the British have superimposed and have administrated change in the Igbo people’s form of government which did not require change for it was functioning well prior to the British colonisation.
In comparison to Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ shows traits of the European colony in Africa for its greed and brutalization of the native people. On the other hand, the native people, their inland and their behaviour is portrayed and described as somewhat peculiar and barbaric. “And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth.” To proclaim the land to be one of the “dark places of the earth” suggest to the reader that the native’s must possess barbaric qualities in order to maintain living in such a place, it illustrates a dreary, ominous setting. Through an ominous setting, the coming of the colonisers can render change, positive change on this “dark place”, the natives lands current situation could not worsen therefore the colonialism can promote change and through change progression will come. It induces the idea that culture is not stagnant; change is definite, and is necessary for the Fang people if they wish their culture to flourish, rather than remaining motionless and continuing the violent lifestyles they live.
Although Conrad presents the Europeans as forthcoming to bring to change to this “dark place” highlighting to the reader the positive impacts of colonialism, the motifs of horror and pain inflicted on the natives are also exhibited. The terror is accentuated through Kurtz final words “The horror! The horror” In general terms, “The horror” refers to what Kurtz has witnessed which is the exploitation of Africa and the brutalization of the native people. Through Kurtz’s distress, the reader is able to perceive a distorted view on whether the European colonists and the colonial rule in fact are beneficial to the existing culture in the land or if they are simply making situations worse, prior to Mr. Kurtz falling ill, him and his Conrad’s would raid village after village due to his infatuation in obtaining more ivory, up until the point his head “was like a ball—an ivory ball”. Conrad accentuates Kurtz’s distress through the repetition of the phrase “The horror!” in order to exhibit Kurtz’s extreme psychological pain as a result of all the brutalization and evil he has foreseen. Colonization hasn’t been beneficial.
‘Heart of Darkness’ has been widely discussed due to Chinua Achebe referring to Conrad as “a bloody racist” and the novella itself “an offensive and totally deplorable book that de-humanized Africans”. Achebe also expressed Conrad as someone whom, “blinkered… with xenophobia,” which is also imminent in ‘Heart of Darkness’ for Conrad articulates “to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody”. The comparison between the dog and the Fang people illustrates a degrading attitude towards the Fang people, it accentuates their “barbaric” nature. Furthermore, Conrad had also incorrectly depicted Africa in opposition to Europe, highlighting the “barbaric” nature of the Fang people perceived in the ‘Heart of Darkness’. Achebe believed that as a result of placing Africa in contrast to Europe, depicting it in such an unwarranted way it creates a disconnection from civilization itself with the people of Africa. Conrad’s articulations of Africa in ‘Heart of Darkness’ ignored the “actual artistic accomplishments of the Fang people who inhabited the Congo River” enunciated by Chinua Achebe. With regards to Achebe’s thoughts on Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ you can argue that the book was written from a biased point of view so the readings in the book onto whether colonial rule impacted the culture of the Fang people are irrelevant. There is simply no way of indicating whether the Fang people were bettered or worsened as a result of colonialism.
Ultimately, I believe although colonial rule has shown beneficial in some aspects such it has stripped the rather callous and ludicrous practices of the people such as how they exalt cultural violence and have been illustrated to live in such “dark places”, the European colonists have taken hostages of the “six men” and brutalized the natives. In addition, the colonisers have intruded in a land which is not theirs and enforced, rules, religion and government upon the natives without their consent even though they had functioned well enough prior the colonisation.
The Theme of Good and Evil in The Tempest and Heart Of Darkness
“The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
In both the play “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare and the novel” Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, they mirror a variety of literary techniques utilized by the authors to dispute and encompass the issues of power and good and evil. On the other hand, there are also differences between both play and novel pertaining to the settings of the two and the supernatural and loss of restoration that’s only shown in “The Tempest” and alienation that is only portrayed in “Heart of Darkness”.
One of the similarities mirrored between the two pieces, is the good and evil displayed in characters from both novel and play. Shakespeare starts “The Tempest” off by challenging the perspectives of the readers on the limitation of a person being entirely evil, or entirely good. In the play, Prospero is established as the main protagonist of “The Tempest”. In “The Tempest” Prospero’s good and bad are mainly paired together, making it difficult to truly identify Prospero as truly evil or good. “The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touched the very virtue of compassion in thee,I have with such provision in mine art so safely ordered that there is no soul—No, not so much perdition as an hair, Betid to any creature in the vessel”. Prospero’s magic is seen to be used for evil, yet it isn’t black magic and he is instead being cautious to insure that everyone on the ship is safe. Good and evil is also mirrored in the novel “Heart of Darkness”, Conrad instills in the reader’s how corruptible the minds of people are and how vulnerable it can be to evil. He has the characters display both the good and evil side of themselves starting off with Marlow. Marlow is the narrator of the novel, and gradually he demonstrates his good side by exhibiting sympathy for the Africans in chains. “A slight clinking behind me made me turn my head. Six black men men advanced in a file, toiling up the path…before I climbed the hill”. This portrays some goodness in Marlow’s heart because the sight of the slaves was something he couldn’t bare. Sadly, he also demonstrates the evil side of himself. “Black shapes crouched… They were dying slowly… I didn’t want anymore loitering in the shade and I made haste to the situation”. Instead of helping them himself, he couldn’t bare the sight of them and left them in that state and doesn’t even tell the manager anything. Both characters have the capability of remaining good, but at times evil sidetracks them into becoming more evil in some ways.
Another similarity that “The Tempest” and “Heart of Darkness” share, is the role power plays in both novel and play. In “The Tempest” there is a great desire for power. Prospero constantly misuses his magical powers for his ambitions and by doing so, he utilizes this to his advantage to excel in his social standing and his power makes him the leader of the enchanted island. Prospero also uses his power to have authority over Ariel pushing him to do things that he wouldn’t do himself if it was his choice, even though Ariel has a lot of power, Prospero having authority over him makes Ariel the most powerful thing he has control over.Due to Prospero stealing the land from Caliban and enslaving him on his very own island, it pushed him to retaliate and also seek for power. “Remember first to possess his books for without them he’s but a sot”. While power made Prospero’s feelings had leave him, Caliban also lost his dignity. In”Heart of Darkness” the audience can sense the obvious hatred Kurt has for the natives and their ways.”Exterminate all Brutes!”. This portrays that if Kurt doesn’t have the power to change the ways of the natives, the natives should be thrown out. Power had overtaken Kurt and Prospero and it became the main influence of their lives. Immense power, corrupts the mind and opposes a logical and reasonable mind.
A major difference between “The Tempest” and “Heart of Darkness” is the setting of the novel and play and the supernatural that only occurs in “The Tempest”. In “Heart of Darkness” The play takes place in the Thames of London. On the other hand, “The Tempest” is set on an island in the Mediterranean. The world of the supernatural also is another difference, which is only depicted in “The Tempest”. “It was a torment to lie upon the damned, which Sycorax Could not again undoes. It was mine art, when I arrived and heard thee, that made gape the pine and let thee out” the readers/ audience can coney from this text, that Prospero is aware of the powerful magic he holds and how strong it is to actually revoke Sycotax spell. This also portrays the significance of magic and how Prospero can use his magic for his own gain. One thing that’s mainly shown in “Heart of Darkness” that does not occur much in “The Tempest” alienation and loneliness, especially with Kurt. Kurt puts himself in the position in inviting loneliness to his life because he was so carried away with the wealth of the ivory and the thought of natives worshipping him had him trapped in his own world. “Everything belonged to him but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own”.
In conclusion, both “The Tempest” and “Heart of Darkness” mirror the similarities of good and evil and power, portraying the fact that immense power corrupts the mind and opposes the a rational mind. Even both play and novel share similarities they do have there differences with the supernatural world of ‘the Tempest” such as Prospero’s magic and the alienation and loneliness of Kurt and Marlow depicted the flaws in the Europeans imperialism and the corruption it beholds.
Understanding of Human Nature in The Man Who Made History and Heart Of Darkness
Discoveries are transformative experiences as they often entail a journey which offers a renewed understanding or perspective on the human experience and the nature of society. Discoveries which challenge assumptions of the world develop in us new ways of thinking as we acquire new knowledge. Both the documentary, ‘Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History’, directed by Simon Nasht, and ‘Heart of Darkness’ written by Joseph Conrad, provide prolific insight into the nature and essence of the life of a human being, as well as insight into the nature of truth and of the construction of history. Thus both texts elucidate that through delving into an aspect of human nature, and the nature of truth and history with hitherto neglected depths evokes a person’s unique and personal conceptions of the reality of their world.
Understanding of human nature is born directly from the individual’s throwing one’s self into the world. One significant consequence of Frank Hurley’s experiences in both his Antarctic expeditions and his experiences in World War One forcibly alter his perceptions on the nature of the human condition. Through the experiences in Shackleton, Hurley comes to be ‘flung’ into the total strength of the natural world. This is made explicit in the use of an indirect interview with the Polar Historian Steve Martin, who likens Hurley’s experiences to “an epic story in just about every sense. Almost a literary epic where the place of the gods is taken by nature and the men are at the whim of these incredible forces of nature.” In this indirect interview, Martin evokes the sense that Hurley’s experiences established within him an appreciation and understanding of man’s role within nature, and the strength of nature in sublating the attempts of men to conquer it. The archival footage of the Endurance breaking through the ice becomes symbolic and evokes the connotation of man attempting to control and conquer nature, further complementing the notion of the epic story. Yet, ironically, Hurley comes to discover (and imparts to us) that this inversion between an eternal natural world and the fragility and weakness of mankind in comparison, and this is relayed through the use of both the zooming out into a longshot of the Endurance trapped in the ice and the musical score, which portrays the sense of man being doomed by nature, effectively heightening the grand scale that divides man and nature. Thus, threw Hurley’s experiences in Shackleton, he comes to discover a hidden reality that he had neglected. He – as part of this discovery – comes to develop a new perception of the world, and his role as an individual in the enormous world.
As Hurley throws himself into the world and uncovers a new world of meaning for the individual, so to does Marlow, the protagonist of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Thus, in the fashion of Hurley, Marlow travels to the unknown continent of Africa, and sees it as an opportunity to further his understanding of the world and reality and comes to make discoveries about the interplay between man and nature – as Hurley does also, but more specifically, about mankind’s moral nature and their natural drive towards both goodness and evil. Marlow conveys his discovery through the use of anthropomorphic imagery to describe the descent of Mr. Kurtz, a man who has fallen prey to the power of the wilderness in the quote, “But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude”. It is discovered retains an essence of life and being within itself, which is able to bring out the darkest of our human nature through the use of the anthropomorphic language, and this discovery is made by Marlow also, and through Marlow, is conveyed to us; the reader. The effect of the jungle on Mr. Kurtz is quite prevalent metaphor of the ‘heart of an impenetrable darkness’. The aforementioned wilderness, has seeped into the living essence of Mr. Kurtz, and has corrupted him. Thus Marlow also comes to alter his perceptions and understandings of the world around him, as he comes to realize that even though mankind may delude itself into believing in its own superiority over nature, nature has the strength to revert mankind back into its primitive self and overpower man.
In his various experiences, Hurley also comes to reflect upon his own understandings of the synthesis between truth and history. Hurly begins to struggle to encapsulate his own experiences through the medium of photography, which Nasht reveals through the use of a quote from Frank Hurley’s Diaries, which states, “It is impossible to secure the full effects of this bloody war without composite pictures.” The use of this diary quote, in unison with the voice-over used by Nasht to interpret Hurley’s saying this quote with an angry voice, conveys the struggles that Hurley faced as he desperately attempted to reveal his new perceptions and discoveries of the death and horror of the First World War. He looked to photography to capture the death and tragedy that is established through the archival footage of dead soldiers on the front, as well as the overlapping voice overs from his diary saying, “It’s impossible to realize that men are just murdering each other around you.” It is this horror and forced metaphysical reflection on the value of human life that Hurley could not manage to secure through the means of ordinary photography. He is forced to manipulate his photographs in order to encapsulate the truth and significance of the nature of the First World War, and thus comes to new understandings about the nature of truth and history in the representation of his world as an individual, to the individual viewers of the photographs. This process of the manipulation of the photographs is shown through the use of parallel and montage editing, which reveal the exact process of the creation of Hurley’s composite photographs. This parallel editing and montage effect displays Hurley’s new understanding of trying to represent the newly discovered world of horror around him.
As Conrad is forced to confront the provocative nature of being removed from one’s social context, which for some results in the descent to madness, and for others provides the opportunity to reassess contextual ideologies regarding the Belgian imperialism of Africa. The effects of imperialism were apathetically seen by the protagonist Marlow, evident in the portrayal of Africa as a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity into which wandering Europeans entered at their peril: “It was unearthly, and the men were… but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.” The use of animalistic imagery along with the third person pronoun reveals contextual race relations, highlighting the distance between the natives and Marlow. The biblical allusion – “The word ‘ivory’ rang the air… You would think they were praying to it” – and the characterization of ivory as an object of worship, depicts the imminent forces of imperialism which became as methodical as religious practice. The direct comparison eludes to the mistreatment suffered by the natives as a result of Kurtz’s greed. Kurtz is a potent dramatization of the degradation attached to European colonial ambition evident in his descent into madness: “The horror, the horror!” Hence, Conrad reveals the insidious nature in which a new environment challenges an individual’s perspective through which they discover an interior truth.
It can be concluded, therefore, that only through encountering new experiences as part of a process of discovery, can one challenge, affirm and develop their own unique perceptions of the world around them. In the documentary, “Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History” directed by Simon Nasht and the novel, “Heart of Darkness”, written by Joseph Conrad, both the Australian photography, Frank Hurley, and the fictional character of Charlie Marlow, go through various experiences involving discovering and rediscovering. They re-evaluate their understanding of various elements of mankind’s interplay with the natural world, mankind’s essential evil nature and the nature of truth and history. These texts reveal that as one delves into these issues pertaining to their perceptions of the reality of the existence for the individual, they come to develop a new and refreshed understanding the world around them, as well as their roles as individuals in the world.
Perceiving the Other in the “Frankenstein” and “The Heart of Darkness”
The concept of the Other is understood through its division from the Self. Specifically, Otherness represents those who run counter to predominant societal ideologies; thus, the Other, denounced as a threat to norms, is shunned from humanity, if not actively hunted. In Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” the creature, loathed by his creator and rejected by society, epitomizes Otherness. Such a grotesque appearance, along with the fact that he serves as the antithesis to natural reproduction, isolates the monster, resulting in his vengeful behaviour and leading to the seeming justification of Victor’s attempts to destroy him. Likewise, in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Otherness—evidently akin to abnormality—is realized in the attitudes of the European imperialists towards African natives. Conrad portrays the jungle as a primitive wilderness and its inhabitants as savage and dangerous, which facilitates communal support for the colonization of Africa by effectively dissociating the civilized Europeans, or Self, from their Other counterparts (4). Such an imposed racial divide—or the repression of species in “Frankenstein”—exemplifies the fundamental exploitation of the Other by the Self.
The monster in “Frankenstein,” upon the onset of animation, is immediately reviled by his maker, Victor. Though “infusing life into an inanimate body […] [was] desired with an ardour that far exceeded moderation,” Victor was “unable to endure the aspect of the being [he] had created” (Shelley 35). This despondent reaction, it is later revealed, forced the creature away from his place of origin and into a forest near Ingolstadt. Through this immediate ostracizing by his “natural lord and king,” the creature embodies Otherness (Shelley 69). When he is given the opportunity to explain himself to Victor, he asserts his natural benevolence, stating that, initially, “[his] soul glowed with love and humanity” (Shelley 69). The harsh divide between conventional and deviant is illustrated through the monster’s implicit understanding of the consequences of Otherness: “If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would […] arm themselves for my destruction” (Shelley 69). In a similar way, Victor, for being indirectly guilty of his creature’s murders and overcome with grief, is detached from humanity and can also personify the Other. In accordance with either character, Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, explored “perceived physical differences […] [as the wrongful] central structuring principle for society” in 1789 (Bugg 656). John Bugg argues that “Frankenstein” fits this model, calling it a “master-trope of physical difference” (656). Consider the case of the monster who, split from society, commits fiendish behaviour as a result of the split, thereby justifying the public’s perception. Wollstonecraft, however, examined race as the distinction between Self and Other, describing the “[degradation of] the numerous nations, on whom the sun-beams more directly dart, below the common level of humanity” (qtd. in Bugg 655). Under this concept, Joseph Conrad portrays African natives as Others who, like Frankenstein’s monster, are presumed to be a threat to customary ideologies and need to be conquered.
The African jungle in “Heart of Darkness” is the mysterious, ominous Other to the white, civilized European Self. Bugg’s description of Otherness in “Frankenstein” as “the politics of biology” applies equally here, as African natives are under the control of the invading settlers as a result of race and land (656). The natives represent the “darkness” of the title, and are often presented as imperceptible shadows among the trees. Moreover, Africa and the jungle itself symbolize the Other World as they exist contrary to colonial Europe. In the novel, Marlow describes the “savagery, utter savagery […] [of the] mysterious life of the wilderness, that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men” (Conrad 4). Such prevailing attitudes throughout contemporary Europe, coupled with the sense of wealth, power, and domination, helped facilitate British imperialism.
Conrad portrays the jungle as a primordial, mystifying Otherness and Marlow and his crew as the frightened, innocuous Self. A recent book review refers to the colonization of third world countries as the “Imperial Project,” claiming that European writers of the time would present the native Other as “something inherently savage, threatening, and impinging upon the civilized world” (“Other” 1). Whether or not this was Conrad’s intention, the dark Otherness of the jungle and the African natives is evident in relation to civilized Europeans. In her article, Marilyn So claims the horrors of the jungle are covered up to “[convince] people back home of the worth of imperialism,” providing further evidence of the Imperial Project (13). Regardless, the fact remains that “Heart of Darkness” centres on the exploitation of African natives and land by the more populated, wealthy, and powerful European. This conflict between the prevailing Self and repressed Other forces the natives to resist, in turn substantiating the settlers’ fear and loathing.
The concept of the Other is illustrated through racial conflict in “Heart of Darkness” and the repression of species in “Frankenstein.” Both stories portray the Other as a deviation from societal norms and values, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which Frankenstein’s monster, for example, acts in accordance with the fearful public’s originally-unfounded presumptions. Similarly, in “Heart of Darkness,” the invasion by the settlers forces African natives to defend their environment; consequently, the Europeans, with much more influence and power, exist as the Self who needs to exploit and destroy the African Other. Further, Marlow likens “going up that river [into the jungle to] traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world,” indicating an apprehension and intrigue to the mysterious Otherness (Conrad 30). Nevertheless, Marlow and his crew, as coincidental members of the Imperial Project, carry on through the darkness out of duty. The fundamental idea to Otherness is in its likeness to abnormality. In “Frankenstein,” the creature’s rejection from conventional society leads to his fittingly monstrous behaviour, which then rationalizes the publics’, or Self’s, oppression over the Other. “Heart of Darkness,” on the other hand, explores the power struggle between races, while portraying exploited African Otherness by dominant European colonialists.
Bugg, John. “‘Master of their Language’: Education and Exile in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’” The Huntington Library Quarterly 68.4 (2005): 655-666. Scholars Portal. Web. 14 April 2010.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902. Ed. Stanley Appelbaum. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1990. Print.
“The ‘Other’ in Colonial-Imperialistic Literature: Looking at Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Forster’s ‘Passage to India.’” Shroud Magazine, Associated Content, 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 14 April 2010.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 3rd ed. 1831. Ed. Stanley Appelbaum and Candace Ward. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.
So, Mang-luen, Marilyn. “‘Otherness’ in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Forster’s ‘A Passage to India.’” HKU Theses Online March 2004: 3-41. University of Hong Kong Scholars Hub. Web. 14 April 2010.
Secluded Characters And Their Use In Further Narrating
Joseph Conrad’s writing has captivated millions with its vast voyages with places far away, sojourners in distant lands, and an omnipotent force of nature disrupting everything. The concept of writing about seafaring comes directly from Conrad’s own adventures, as he went on many voyages throughout his life. Whether intentionally or not, Conrad’s personal understanding of people, ships, and nature mirror his use of them in his books, such as Typhoon, Falk, and Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s stories not only tell a fictional narrative of events happening in another universe, but also describe what Conrad himself believes about reality based off of his personal experiences. Joseph Conrad’s writing features lonely seamen aboard isolated ships to colorfully describe Conrad’s own worldview.
Conrad’s personal experience with the sea directly relates to details in his novels, linking the works of Conrad to the memories of Conrad. Many novels Conrad wrote come from actual memories during Conrad’s life. During his personal travels, he sailed out of Bangkok on a ship to Singapore, and in his novel Falk the characters interact in the port, a place where Conrad spent much time. In a voyage to the port of Java, he sailed on the ship Highland Forest under the Captain John MacWhirr, and in Typhoon Captain MacWhirr sails to Asia. Heart of Darkness describes a man becoming a Captain of a steamboat in the Congo river, and Conrad did the same in his personal travels. These novels serve not only as entertainment but also as recollections of memories that Conrad himself went through and recorded using his own worldview. The main characters in Conrad’s writings effectively put Conrad personally into the story. In Heart of Darkness, as the main character narrates his life’s journey a bystander mentions that “His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence” (Heart of Darkness 447). The beginning of the novel includes a group of men on a ship in silence, and then Marlow begins to describe his life. This reflects what the reader achieves by reading his books: the reader listens to Conrad tell his story. Thus, in this novel, Conrad can use Marlow as a representative of himself. A similar example of this comes from Falk, in which the narrator states “This reminds me of an absurd episode in my life, now many years ago, when I got first the command of an iron barque” (Falk 270). Then the narrator describes the entire story. While the physical representation of a visible archetype of Conrad (such as Marlow) does not appear in the novel, there still remains an element of narration which symbolizes what Conrad himself does in writing his novels. Although Typhoon does not include any designated narrators, a main character uses the same name that a captain in Conrad’s life history does. Conrad writes “Captain MacWhirr, of the steamer Nan-Shan, had a physiognomy that, in the order of material appearances, was the exact counterpart of his mind” (Typhoon 195). This purposeful hint gives a connection between Conrad’s life and Typhoon in the sense that Conrad’s experience overflows into his writings. In addition, Ian Robinson writes in “Conrad’s Belief in Victory” that “like Dickens, Conrad is not supposed to be a philosophically sophisticated novelist. But both can get philosophical notions as clear as they need.” Conrad’s writing, according to Robinson, includes either vague or clear philosophy. In fact, Conrad’s writing contains copious amounts of philosophical details and hints which can link his life and philosophy to his writings. All three of these works include a connection to Conrad’s personal life and journey that help to explain how Conrad reflects his worldview in his writings.
Ships create divisions between people and nature that expose Conrad’s views about nature, loneliness, and civilization. In Typhoon, a voyaging ship faces a powerful typhoon in the ocean. In the novel there exist two sides: those aboard the ship and the forces outside the ship. This construct distinctly separates humanity from the power of nature, and illustrates Conrad’s opinion that nature contains immense power, enough to have a “wind [that] strangled[strangles] his [MacWhirr’s] howls” (Typhoon 218). Using this, Conrad goes on to describe the sovereignty that nature plays over the life of everyone, both physically and emotionally. In Falk, living on ships isolate people from each other and shows the displeasure and difficulty of living alone. Falk, a lonely man who “lived on board his tug, which was always dashing up and down the river” (Falk 278) finds that “it [is] every day more difficult to live alone” (Falk 300). Due to Falk’s living aboard a ship alone, he finds life difficult. The use of a ship emphasizes Conrad’s disgust of loneliness by creating a division between Falk and society. In Heart of Darkness, characters aboard ships possess qualities of nobility and civility, while the people not on the ship act savagely and thus bear the name ‘savages.’ A fight breaks out between people on the shores of the river and the colonists aboard the steamboat. Marlow “made out, deep in the tangled gloom, naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes, — the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze color” (Heart of Darkness 476). He fails to see people, but parts of them, deep in gloom. On the other hand, the men aboard the ship retain visibility and humanity. When the conflict breaks out, “the arrows came in swarms” (Heart of Darkness 476) while the “the report of a rifle just at my back deafened me” (Heart of Darkness 476). Noticing the qualities associated to the respective weapons, the arrows retain a swarm-like, animalistic, savage quality while the rifle simply contains the word report, a much more civilized word used more in societies when one reports to a leader. From the qualities of words and the imagery associated to the ‘savages,’ Conrad uses ships here as the decisive factor that distinguishes the civilized from the barbaric. Using ships as an agent of division, Conrad develops his ideas about loneliness, nature, and civilization.
Characters in solitude express Conrad’s opinion that men don’t function well alone. Numerous examples in Conrad’s works highlight this perspective. In Falk, Falk becomes damaged by his singleness and responds by speaking to the narrator. In their discussion, “He[Falk] caught my [his] hand and wrung it in a crushing grip. ‘Pardon me. I feel it every day more difficult to live alone . . .’” (Falk 300). The derangement Falk endures from his desolation causes him to physically attack and harm someone. In this state, he mistakenly assumes that the narrator wants to marry a woman he liked. Falk’s desire for a wife comes from a sense to not be alone because he says that he finds life more difficult everyday to live alone, not because he wants children or love. Similarly, in Typhoon, sailors become drawn to write home to their wives. An example would be the ship’s engineer, “Mr. Rout [,who] likewise wrote letters; only no one on board knew how chatty he could be pen in hand, because the chief engineer had enough imagination to keep his desk locked. His wife relished his style greatly” (Typhoon 201). This means that while the engineer appears quiet among the other sailors, he wishes to communicate with his wife. He longs to not be around people who voyage with him primarily for financial gain. He yearns to come home to be with his wife and family. Clearly, he wants to leave the confinement of the ship and live a social life. In Heart of Darkness, shallow understandings of characters leaves little knowledge of whether men at the colony in Congo wrote letters to their loved ones, but they all share a respect and admiration for the man named Kurtz. When Marlow asked “who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen, ‘He is a very remarkable person.’”(Heart of Darkness 456). Many men at the colony share a similar view of Kurtz. The universal admiration of Kurtz symbolizes the need people have for other people, and in this case these men want to talk with a remarkable man. These colonists have an eager expectation and hope that they will get to be with Kurtz. Holger Nüstedt, in his literary criticism “Joseph Conrad’s “The End of the Tether: An Old Man’s Rite of Passage,” writes that Conrad “leans rather heavily on the idea of initiation,” which means “the transition of young people from childhood to adulthood in so-called ‘primitive’ societies and may therefore seem a plausible enough metaphor for a number of changes experienced by young persons in literature.” The concept of initiation comes up in all three of these books in that characters who possess mature traits communicate with others (their wives or Kurtz). They all have someone they want to communicate with, and without communication they feel dismayed. Having been initiated into society as adults, they strive for a similar goal of relating to other people. Thus, the enjoyment of others’ company in all three books exposes Conrad’s disbelief in joyful isolation.
Ships remove people from the superficiality of life to enable characters to observe and ponder the world. Some characters engage in a change described by Shirley Galloway in her critical essay “Joseph Conrad: The Sense of Self” as “deal [dealing] with a process of maturing that involves the loss of youthful illusions, a process usually precipitated by an actual “trial” that challenges the protagonist’s professional skills as well as his assumptions about his identity and sanity.” All three novels reflect a trial that a character experiences. In Typhoon, the narrator personifies a battle between sailors aboard a ship and a raging typhoon. When the typhoon first breaks out, “in an instant the men lost touch of each other” (Typhoon 212). Separated at sea from their fellow seamen and loved ones at home, the men became attacked, and “the storm penetrated the defences of the man and unsealed his lips” (Typhoon 236) with a force “like the sudden smashing of a vial of wrath. It seemed to explode all round the ship with an overpowering concussion and a rush of great waters” (Typhoon 212). Conrad makes it clear that the typhoon not only attacks and hurts the ship (which it does), but also intervenes on the inner reaches of the men aboard, singling them out and pouring wrath on and in them. In this separated and distressed state, the men are forced to think about the storm, the might of nature, and the state of their lives. The sailors focus all of their strength to attack the storm not merely physically, but mentally and emotionally to keep their lives from breaking down internally into despair. Furthermore, the narrator in this story fits Galloway’s understanding of trials in Conrad’s works, which makes the story contain numerous depictions of inner destruction wrought by the storm. Conrad’s narrator Marlow in the novel Heart of Darkness describes with great thought and feeling the journey he had in Africa. Separated from his former life and catapulted into a new job far from home, Marlow ponders the essence of nature. He states that “going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine” (Heart of Darkness 467). Marlow sees nature untamed (mostly) by mankind, where the big trees were important rather than skyscrapers. The nature stands strong, steadfast, and dark. Marlow believes that the forest’s seclusion resembles how he felt that he “lost your[his] way on that river as you[he] would in a desert” (Heart of Darkness 467) even though a river contains a set path one travels on. The lostness Marlow experiences comes from internal thoughts created from his remote adventure, not from any navigational failures. In this river, left to himself, he ponders nature much as the narrator in Typhoon describes his battle against the sea. Marlow embodies the youthful person described by Galloway in the sense that Marlow becomes privy to the expansiveness of nature and becomes lost, losing his identity due to the trial he finds himself in. In contrast to the other two books that start with people in society that enter secluded thinking, Falk describes a mysterious single man becoming a married man. He “would come along unsympathetically, glaring at you with his yellow eyes from the bridge, and would drag you out dishevelled as to rigging, lumbered as to the decks, with unfeeling haste, as if to execution” (Falk 279). Falk hates his job, and “feel[s] it every day more difficult to live alone” (Falk 300). Due to Falk’s complete isolation on a ship for many years filled with feeling and internal depth, Falk wishes to have company. The social abandonment Falk faces causes him to feel pain and depression, and walks to work as if he were walking to die. Galloway’s concept of finding identity amidst a trial resembles the pain Falk experiences while single, and his plight to leave this pain exposes his loss and forces him to acknowledge his own weakness. While this book incorporates desolation differently from the other two books, it still creates significant meanings about Conrad’s worldview. In all three books, men cut off from others ponder the world they live in.
Characters in faraway lands, isolated from their homeland, give Conrad a unique vehicle to discuss white supremacy and the commonly held belief of social Darwinism. In all three works people of other races are looked down upon as barbaric, chaotic, and duplicitous. The majority of passengers in Typhoon called ‘China men’ all congregate together in a big room in the ship with big chests that store valuables. When the storm struck the ship, the chests burst open, and suddenly “all these clumsy Chinamen [are] rising up in a body to save their property” (Typhoon 229). The Chinamen fought so much that with “every fling of the ship would hurl that tramping, yelling mob here and there, from side to side, in a whirl of smashed wood, torn clothing, rolling dollars” (Typhoon 229). The fight in the ship during the storm symbolizes the carnage brought on by the inner depths of everyone on board the ship, and further describes how the storm effects the entirety of people, threatening the separation between ship and sea. In covalent validity, the storm overwhelms the Chinamen early and completely, pushing them as a group differentiated by race, into depravity and greed. The sudden change of the Chinamen amidst the storm mirrors social Darwinism because only the Chinamen group falls into chaos while all the other white men aboard the ship maintain their ability to continue working. In addition, Chinamen don’t work for the ship, but live under the authority of the white men on the ship. Adding to the perspective that the Chinamen symbolize the storm’s effect on individuals, the Chinamen only serve to disturb the other race attempting to survive the brutal storm. In Falk, a similar situation occurs in which the narrator hires a Chinaman to help on his ship, and “before the end of the third day he had revealed himself as a confirmed opium-smoker, a gambler, a most audacious thief, and a first-class sprinter” (Falk 274). In short, the only prominent person of another race garners significant disrepute for his inability to do work correctly. This minor, cameo appearance of a person from another race illustrates the idea that people from other races do not possess the necessary skills and discipline required to work a ‘white man’s job’. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad separates the colonists from the colonized to describe how the white race contains more nobility and civility while the indigenous Congo people consist of savagery and primitiveness. Marlow describes the Congo as having “Sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink” (Heart of Darkness 447). This statement elevates Marlow and the colonizers above the Congo people, saying that good food for civil people comes up rarely. In general, the way Marlow describes the Congo as dark, with “no joy in the brilliance of sunshine” (Heart of Darkness 467) relates exactly with how Marlow describes the Congo people. The people and the environment also mix in several occasions, one being before the fight at the river when Marlow finds that “the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze color” (Heart of Darkness 476). Marlow not only finds the Congo repulsive, but the people who live in it as a natural extension of his dislike of the Congo. He suggests that one race, the white race, contains civility and nobility that no other race can match. Conrad’s stories across the world bring Conrad to specialized discussion about social Darwinism and racism.
Conrad’s placement of ships brings to light his belief about the sovereign hand of nature over human action. Out on the open seas in Typhoon, the ship comes under an attack from nature. The typhoon holds the existence of everyone aboard in the palm of it’s hand and can sink the ship at any moment. Like an actual person, “The Nan-Shan was being looted by the storm with a senseless, destructive fury: trysails torn out of the extra gaskets, double-lashed awnings blown away, bridge swept clean, weather-cloths burst, rails twisted, light-screens smashed — and two of the boats had gone already” (Typhoon 215). Throughout the novel, Conrad employs personification to describe how the sea acts like an independent person. This storm’s personality also contains attributes, in this case a large amount of wrath. Nature does not act out of chance because it retains the qualities of an actual person. The nature described here acts not out of chance but out of will, and the life of all aboard the ship comes under the omnipotent authority of nature. Building off of this idea, Falk includes an accident that would never have happened unless nature had intervened. The character Falk spends his days pulling boats up and down the river, yet damages the ship he tows. This ship happens to belong to Captain Hermann, whose niece Falk wishes to marry. With so much at stake, Falk fails at doing the task he was supposed to do for one of the most important jobs in his life! The narrator exclaims “The damage! The damage! What for all that damage! There was no occasion for damage” (Falk 287). This event could not have come out of mere chance, because Falk put lots of effort into making sure it didn’t become damaged so he would have a better chance of marrying the niece. Under the authority of nature, however, the ship becomes damaged. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow describes the river as “dead in the centre. And the river was there—fascinating—deadly— like a snake. Ough!” (Heart of Darkness 450). Marlow notes that nature itself looks fascinating, yet deadly as a snake. As an archetypal representative of Conrad’s own experience in this story, he acknowledges the power nature holds over his head, knowing how deadly and powerful it can be. Conrad’s placement of nature constructs his thoughts about how nature controls the fate of human beings, trumping their free will.
Seamen without direct communication home have to act on a whim, paralleling Conrad’s endorsement of adaptability and improvisation in remote places. In the middle of a storm in Typhoon, Captain MacWhirr reads a book on typhoons. After reading and thinking about it, he stolidly states “You don’t find everything in books” (Typhoon 233). With his experience at sea, MacWhirr believes that simply studying books does not teach men enough, and that they need to learn more outside of books, such as an experience at sea, to truly know and understand the gravity of the storm. While factual books supply MacWhirr with facts and figures, they fail to tell him of the internal conflicts he would experience during the storm that Conrad describes. When books fail, Conrad believes that one must improvise to ensure the survival of the ship, and when the storm strikes, events occur that cannot be easily discussed at length in a book. For example, some passengers’ chests break open and they start fighting over everything in the middle of the ship. Events like these force the captain to act on a whim for the given situation and not rely solely on what the book says. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow travels to Africa for a job as the captain of a ship, and after he meets a man and “told[tells] him who I [Marlow] was, [said] that my steamer was at the bottom of the river. I was thunderstruck” (Heart of Darkness 458). After this accident, Marlow’s plans change to “fishing my[Marlow’s] command out of the river” (Heart of Darkness 458) instead of starting to tread up the river. Marlow must now change what he plans to do, and for some months he must now work on repairing the ship. His profession, similar to MacWhirr’s, requires spontaneity. It must be noted that the ship sunk mainly because the company, “in a sudden hurry” (Heart of Darkness 458) hired a “volunteer skipper” (Heart of Darkness 458) to move up the river. In this sense acting on a whim maliciously forces Marlow to change his plans. Conrad, therefore, makes a distinction between intelligent improvisation and being unwise because he includes negative and positive improvisations. If he had wanted to only describe how useful all improvisations are, he would have used another story that did not include a great hurry which demands improvisation. Improvisation in Heart of Darkness describes the indispensable need for good improvisation and the downfall if situations are not handled correctly. Falk includes some spontaneity when Falk tries to arrange a marriage. Falk wishes to marry the niece of another captain named Hermann while at a seaport on the Eastern coast of China. Hermann serves as the man who oversees the marriage for the niece, while the narrator helps Falk. As noted earlier, Falk wants to be married, and feels pain every day he remains single. In Conrad’s time, a father would supervise the process of courtship. The narrator starts the process, assuring Falk that he does not have affection for the niece by saying, “I am ready to do all I can for you in that way[for Falk’s marriage]” (Falk 298). In this situation, everyone improvises and the niece’s uncle takes authority. Falk also tells everyone a gruesome story that includes his act of cannibalism to stay alive. At this distance from home, everyone improvises and ignores the father. The process happens relatively quickly and the marriage becomes a reality, started from some voyagers at the right place and the right time with the right actions. Whether from navigating a ship or arranging a marriage, Conrad expresses the need for empirical improvisation.
Conrad’s reflective writing not only captivated millions but also subtly incorporated in Conrad’s concepts about life, many discovered on his adventures. Above all, he employed the repetitive use of loneliness and separation to address meaningful ideas and concepts. According to Conrad, people should respect the power of nature, socialize with others, ponder the world, be willing to improvise, and accept that some races are better than others. From all of his ideas and beliefs, it can be clearly observed that what one experiences in their life greatly influences the perspective they take on the world, which can have harmful effects. An example of this being Conrad’s racism. This warns everyone to read these works with definite discernment of what contains truth and what was simply an old idea proven false long ago. Joseph Conrad’s writings about ships and sailors specifically delineate Conrad’s worldview.