Heart of Darkness Study Guide

Chapter 1
1. The setting of the story begins on the Nellie, a ship. The turn of the tide is significant because it gives the men on board extra time to talk, and Marlow begins telling his story. In addition, symbolically, the turning of the tide conveys a change, and perhaps, foreshadowing of the story. The author spends a lot of time dealing with light because it is the main symbol in the novella. Light and darkness are universal symbols that represent good and evil.

Although not explicitly stated, those who have the light are those who are “civilized”, and those who have the darkness are those who remain “uncivilized”, particularly the people living in Africa. 2. Marlow appears different from everyone else on the ship because of how the author describes Marlow’s character. Conrad describes Marlow as having “sunken cheeks”, a “yellow complexion”, and resembling that of an “idol”. Marlow seems ill through this description. Sunken cheeks convey a lack of nourishment, as well as exhaustion.

The color yellow in literature has two meanings: happiness and sickness. In this context, one may infer the color yellow to symbolize Marlow’s sickness, or corruption, as it correlates to the rest of his description. Lastly, an “idol” connotes a phantom. Marlow appears to be different from everyone on the ship through his description. The audience is civilized. All of the men have jobs, a lawyer, an accountant, the director, and the outside narrator. The story also explains how Marlow remained the only one out of the men to still follow the sea. He also portrays how he did not “represent his class.” This suggests that Marlow may not be as “civilized” as the other men.

As Marlow begins to tell his story, the narrator explains how Marlow is about to embark on another “inconclusive” experience. The word inconclusive suggests not fully answering doubts and questions. In addition, Marlow begins to remark the “weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear.” This conveys how Marlow hopes to interest, or intrigue, his audience. Marlow feels inclined to share his story so that his audience better understands him.

3. The Roman reacted to England, a dark place, by “civilizing” it, or conquering its territory. At that time, England looked like the “very end of the world.” It possessed “sand banks, marshes, forests, savages.” The story conveys how there was little to eat for a civilized man and only the Thames water for drink. England was a dark place at that time because it was uncivilized. 4. According to Marlow, what redeems the conquest of the Earth is the idea only; the idea that men will unselfishly sacrifice themselves for. Marlow explains how conquering land, and the land’s people, really is not a pretty thing.

I think Marlow breaks off because it is a sensitive subject for him to discuss, and maybe only something he truly understands. 5. Marlow keeps comparing the river to a serpent. The comparison is interesting because a serpent symbolizes evil, corruption, and temptation. Similar to the story of Adam and Eve, a snake, or the river in this case, tempts the protagonist. 6. Aside from knitting, the two women in the office appear to be secretaries, or receptionists, for the doctor. Both women appear to symbolize fate; they are the fates who spin, measure, or cute the thread of life.

This symbol is an allusion to Greek mythology. As Marlow is progressing toward his journey to Africa, it is in the Company’s office that he meets these two women. 7. Fresleven went insane because he had spent so much time in the jungle. After attempting to stab the village chief, Fresleven was killed. The conflict began with an argument over a couple of hens, which cost him, his life. The village became abandoned because the natives became superstitious; they were all very afraid to kill a white man. 8. Marlow’s Aunt calls Marlow an “emissary of light” because she believes that during his journey to Africa, Marlow is going to bring knowledge and civilization to the “savages.”

This reflects the imperialism during that time period. 9. The man-of-war is a lifeless forested stretch of coast. Once they reach the Congo River, Marlow boards another ship to journey further upriver. The man-of-war portends the lifelessness of many coasts in Africa; most parts of the place appear corrupt and dreary. 10. Marlow describes the Company’s station as a “Grove of Death”, in which among the trees there are dying natives and recurring dynamite blasts.

I think the natives allowed themselves to be bullied by the white men because they felt inferior. During this time, imperialism was popular and the belief that a white man was better than a black man was common. I also do not think natives had the proper technology, means, or knowledge to necessarily stand up to a group of white men either. 11. The accountant is described as an elegant white man with a clean and well-mannered appearance. The accountant is described as a “miracle” because he represents the Company, or how the Company wishes to be seen. The accountant is devoted to the Company. The station manager is described as an average man.

The manager’s supreme gift is his ability to never get sick. Marlow does not like the station manager because he is jealous of Kurtz, and also because Marlow describes him as “originating nothing.” This suggests how the manager lacks innovation and is devoted to keeping up with appearances, although he has nothing to offer. The manager comments about how ‘men should only come out here if they don’t have anything inside.’ This conveys that in order to succeed in the ivory trade business and survive in Africa, one must be ruthless. 12. The brick maker appears to be idle as Marlow remarks on how there “wasn’t a fragment of a brick anywhere in the station.”

The brick maker is waiting for his opportunity to move up the ladder within the company. 13. Kurtz’ painting is of a blindfolded woman carrying a lighted torch, in which her face is appears deceived by shadows. I suppose the painting reflects the men traveling to Africa, blindfolded, to civilize the natives, who represent the light. The woman is blindfolded as the European men are blinded by their negative influence on the natives. The shadows suggest darkness, which suggests corruption. 14. The manager and brick maker are upset at Kurtz’ pre-eminence because they are envious at his success.

This conveys the competition, desperation, and corruption during this time period to do whatever it takes to be successful, powerful, and rich. For these European men, money was power and that was their desire. Marlow lies to the brick maker by playing along to further understand his motives. In addition, Marlow allows the brick maker to think he has an influence in Europe to gain information about Kurtz. 15. Marlow was unable to get the rivets from the Company.

This suggests how the enterprise is allowing loose policies and for things to follow apart; this conveys a lack of professionalism. The manager does not want the rivets to make it out because he wants his Eldorado Exploring Expedition to follow through. 16. The Eldorado Exploring Expedition suggests an expedition in search for gold during this time. Although there was no gold in Africa, ivory was very valuable. This expedition was led by the manager’s uncle. Its purpose is to find ivory and exploit African resources.

Chapter 2
1. The manager survives because he cannot get sick. His plan to “beat Kurtz” is by delaying the trip to the Inner Station, that way hopefully Kurtz’ illness will kill him because he will not receive the proper care in time. 2. The crew of the steamboat was the cannibals. Although savage, the cannibals are much better at controlling their behavior than the pilgrims. The pilgrims appear willing to begin destruction at any cause in order to gain ivory. The definition of “civilized” seems to belong to those who are able to exercise self-restraint. 3. The drums symbolize the culture that still exists in Africa.

The forest appears to be moving throughout the journey, which may be foreshadowing how the natives are moving with the boat to assure that it does not meet Kurtz. 4. “The earth seemed unearthly” suggests the discomfort Marlow feels along his journey. On a larger scale, this conveys how Africa has become a place lacking of normality and humanity; Marlow expresses how he feels separated from Earth. “That was the worst of us, the suspicion that they weren’t human,” suggests how corrupt the men were; they appear to show no signs of humanity.

5. Marlow discovers a book about seamanship. The book appears admirable because it is the only bit of reality Marlow has encountered recently. 6. When they wake up, eight miles from the station, the coast has been covered in a thick fog which keeps them stationary. The fog is a white, however, it does not represent light or goodness. The fog suggests how Marlow’s steamer does not know exactly where they are or what lies ahead in their journey; everything appears unclear physically and emotionally. 7. Marlow claims that the natives will not attack because the “nature of their noise” seems to convey sadness. In addition, Marlow does not understand how there could be an attack with the severe fog.

8. The sounding man is killed first in the attack because he is the first man seen. The river comes to symbolize not only the way in which Marlow begins his journey into himself, but as they venture further up the river, Marlow begins to realize he has more in common with the natives than Europeans. In addition, the river continues to represent the heart of temptation. The helmsman gets killed because he began to freak out, abandoning his position to grab a gun. Marlow drives the natives away by using the steam-whistle. 9. Marlow wanted to meet Kurtz because he had heard such interesting, wild things about him. Kurtz represents the thrilling and horrifying wildness that Marlow desired. Kurtz abandoned his life in Europe to pursue fortune in Africa.

10. Kurtz head was compared to that of an ivory ball. This suggests how important ivory was to this man; it was the only thing on his mind. Conrad uses a simile, irony, as well as symbolism to convey this. 11. Kurtz paper is about how white men must treat Africans as though the white men are much greater, super natural beings so that they can exert power over them. At the end, the scribble proclaims to exterminate all brutes. 12. The harlequin is the Russian man, Kurtz’ disciple. The harlequin knows a lot about Kurtz, he claims to only listen to Kurtz, and he acts only has information for Marlow. Chapter 3

1. The harlequin is boyish in appearance, and he is young. His brightly patched clothes are similar to the maps in the office Marlow had admired. The harlequin represents youth and adventure. The harlequin is still alive due to Kurtz’ influence. 2. The stakes outside of Kurtz’ compound were human heads. Most were faced in, while a couple was faced outward. They are the heads of “rebels”. 3. A group of native Africans carry Kurtz on a stretcher. Marlow describes Kurtz as resembling “an animated image of death carved out of ivory.”

This further suggests how Kurtz was willing to die in pursuit of ivory, which symbolizes power. 4. Kurtz brings his guns with him. Since the natives view Kurtz as a deity, they believe that the guns hold great power. Kurtz brings them to further emphasize his power over the natives. 5. The “wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman” is a native woman, Kurtz’ mistress. Conrad pairs here with being a warrior. 6. Right before Kurtz dies, Marlow recognizes all of Kurtz’ emotions. This relates to Kurtz’ last words “the horror! The horror!” because perhaps Kurtz realized that the life he was living was actually not worth dying for. Marlow blows out the candle because it is symbolic of Kurtz’ life.

7. “He had something to say” relates to Kurtz, who always had something to say, while Marlow had nothing to say. Marlow believes that Kurtz last words are a victory because he thinks he realized his negative impact in the world and his corruption at that moment. 8. Back in the city, Marlow discovers that Kurtz had many other talents such as a gift in music and writing. 9. Marlow gives up the idea that the Europeans belong in Africa. He has gone about doing that by no longer choosing to pursue that lifestyle. 10. The Intended is Kurtz’ fiancée.

She is described as being beautiful and often connected with imagery of light and heaven. Marlow’s belief that women live in beautiful worlds, which should not be disturbed, is relevant here as this beautiful woman is not intertwined with Kurtz’ alter lifestyle, his corrupt lifestyle. 11. Kurtz’ Intended claimed to have known him more than anyone else on Earth. However, she did not know the type of lifestyle Kurtz was living. Marlow tells the Intended that Kurtz’ last words were for her name.

Marlow claims that “it would have been too dark” to tell her the truth. I think the Heart of Darkness is when one allows him or herself to live in a false reality, allowing themselves to lie and deceive others for their own benefit.

Contrasting “Conflict in Things Fall Apart” and “Heart of Darkness”

Heart of Darkness by Josef Conrad and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe are two novels that are written to make a statement. Both are meant to stir the emotions of the reader, whether those emotions be anger, hope, frustration, joy, despair, or enlightenment. Both novels take place in the same location and same time period and involve the same groups of people. Both novels depict European imperialism in the African Congo in the 1800s. The obvious distinction between the two is that Heart of Darkness tells a tale from the European point of view while Things Fall Apart tells one from the Native African Tribe point of view.

Both authors use extremely well developed characters to manifest and exhibit controversies and bring to light critical aspects of human nature and propensity. Both authors use conflict of various types to ascertain an overall theme. Although the novels use similar settings in the expression of their ideas, the underlying themes Conrad and Achebe choose to focus on are very different.

Chiefly, the ultimate conflict in Heart of Darkness is one of Man vs. Himself, while the ultimate conflict in Things Fall Apart is one of Man vs. Man.

To begin, both Conrad and Achebe wish to make statements on the negative consequences of Imperialism with their novels, but choose to emphasize completely unrelated and extremely different issues. In Heart of Darkness, the conflict has to do with the destructive consequences of the self-discovery and internal turmoil that goes with segregation from society in an untamed, ruthless, savage place such as the African Congo. Years of life in the jungle drove the brilliant Kurtz to near insanity:

“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 to him about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took council with this great solitude” (98). For Marlow, the dark and hollow core inside himself and all mankind is also exposed during his conquest into the unfamiliar land, and he too comes very close to being pushed into insanity by his realizations: “The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of inextinguishable regrets… Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare… he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot” (119).

Obviously, Conrad chose to focus his novel not on the conflicts that arise between people in societies that try to impose on each other, but rather how a new environment and point of view can lead to self-discovery and internal conflict within oneself. On the other hand, Achebe’s obvious focus was on the falling apart of a culture that can occur with a more powerful culture’s abrupt influence. He emphisizes throughout his novel many directly contrasting aspects of European society and the Ibo people, and the conflict this causes both between the two group and among the Ibo people themselves. As the wise Obierka observes, “he [the white man] has put a knife on the things that hold us [the Ibo people] together and we have fallen apart”. The use of the words he and we implies that the conflict exists between individuals; between whites and blacks, Europeans and natives, believers and non-believers, loyalists and traitors.

More specifically, one can observe the trials of the two novels’ main characters. Both main characters are tragic heroes and develop such dreadful internal conflict that in the end both are led to destruction, this conflict is rooted very differently for each of them. In Heart of Darkness, inner station manager Kurtz is found by Marlow in a state of essential insanity; an intellectual and economic genius turned delusional, raving, fanatical, and savage. As Marlow explains, Kurtz’s “intelligence was perfectly clear and concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; … his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad” (113). Kurtz’s downfall was one that had developed from within himself. In Things Fall Apart, former tribal leader and respected warrior Okonkwo ends up losing the admiration of his people and eventually hanging himself. The self-loathing hopelessness that led to his suicide came primarily from the discord that had developed between himself and the people of his tribe and the hostility of the whites.

Assess the importance of setting in Heart of Darkness

The setting is the basis of every story or novel, the basis of every prose work. Heart of Darkness is by no means an exception. Joseph Conrad’s nouvelle or rather said mysterious work is not being easily understood let alone assessed. But each reader of Heart of Darkness should try to solve the mystery the author has opened.

The setting reveals itself to be a mystery within the mystery. What is really the setting of Conrad’s nouvelle? And is it at all important to the work as a whole? Is it the usual setting of an adventure story that was popular at the time, is it a place of darkness, the heart of it, or just the jungle in the Congo region? The setting may be all of the above and it looks like composed of several different ones colouring the mysteriousness of the nouvelle, some contrasting the others.

Heart of Darkness begins in a voice that is not belonging to the protagonist.

This later appears to be the auditor of the protagonist’s(Marlow’s) story, so for short he may be called the Auditor. His introduction reveals that the setting is a yawl, called Nellie, swinging on the surface of the Thames awaiting for the turn of the tide so she can sail off. The beginning of the setting reminds the Auditor of England’s naval glory, he recalls the great knights – known and unknown – of the sea while the banks of the Thames remind Marlow that they have also been “one of the dark places of the earth”. And exactly the word “dark” is the one that defines the setting throughout the whole of the nouvelle, varying only in shades. This becomes crystal clear from the moment Marlow begins to speak and he speaks through the whole of the nouvelle except the few introductory paragraphs. Going further to describe the setting Marlow begins his story about his journey in the Congo region, the heart of darkness. The protagonist explains that as a boy he looked at the blank spaces on the maps and dreamed of exploring them, but the Congo region was no blank space anymore, ironically according to Marlow it has become a place of darkness.

He is fascinated by the river in the heart of darkness, for him it resembles a snake, symbol of evil; while the river Thames described earlier is calm and serene contrasting the setting in the Congo river. Both rivers may be symbol of the tamed and untamed. London is tamed by civil and moral rules, that’s why it’s calm while the untamed Africa is cruel but free. Marlow sees danger even before his journey has begun but it doesn’t stop him from going to the other setting, the office of the Company. The following description is the gate towards darkness and death, the gate of Hell. The setting stays in Marlow’s mind and later on in his journey he remembers the two women dressed in black, knitting black wool and holding a black cat; guardian angels to the “gate of Darkness”.

Conrad reveals that not many of those who have been introduced to the Company by the younger woman had the chance to return and look at her again, as if by giving them a glance she turns them to stone like the Gorgone Meduse and dooms them to eternal darkness. Relatively the same is the moral “preached” in the setting in the doctor’s office. The doctor is interested in measuring the skulls of all those who leave for the Congo with the distinct idea that he could measure them again on their returning but so far none of them has returned. A fact that suprises Marlow who understands from the doctor that no matter what, the changes take place inside the skull; the doctor seems like the prophet to Marlow’s enlightment.

Finally Marlow leaves in a French steamer for the Congo. The setting changes as they sail nearer to the coast of the jungle. Marlow feels isolated and delusional by the immense water and the only touch with reality are the boats coming from the shore with “black fellows” in them. This particular setting is the first touch of civilization with wilderness and savagery. Civilization is characterized by light and “straight forward facts” while to the wilderness is given the heart of Darkness and freedom. The setting communicates the meaning of the episode. As it does in the next one presenting the Company’s station that Marlow is left in. The black boy he meets fascinates him with the white thread from beyond the seas around his black neck. Civilization intrudes the lives of the Africans and enslaves them.

The white thread looks like a manacle around the boy’s neck. After such a sight the white man Marlow meets at the “station” setting looks like a sort of vision. This miracle later appears to be the Company’s chief accountant. He strikes Marlow with devotion to his work and the fact that he had achieved something in his life, everything in it is in order while the whole station is falling apart. The accountant and his office is the island of salvation for Marlow when he wants to get away from the misery at the station. The importance of this particular setting is the mentioning for the first time the name of Mr.Kurtz, defined by the accountant as a remarkable person and from this moment on the mysterious Kurtz enters the thoughts of Marlow as well as the reader’s.

The setting of the Central Station serves its purpose too to the whole of the nouvelle. The forest near it looks huge and calm to Marlow, the setting alone sends the feeling to all of the readers, misery and greatness fill their hearts. Together with this the tickling feeling of the awaited by Marlow meeting with Kurtz makes the breathing of the reader harder. In the Central Station he meets a brickmaker who gives more detail to the fast-growing character of Kurtz in Marlow’s mind. He is an extraordinary human being, an emissary of pity and what not, bringing civilization to the dark continent. The brickmaker is sure that Marlow has some resemblance to Kurtz and if this is true the reader is only to find out on their own.

The months spent awaiting the needed rivets for the repair of the mysteriously broken down steamer are over. Marlow leaves for the Inner Station where he is to find out if the rumors about the best Company’s agent are true, the narrator leaves in search for the ill Kurtz whose death is awaited by most of the Company’s staff. The setting changes once more only to become the same as earlier in Marlow’s journey. Black people, enemies that are hiding on the shore like evil that is creeping and getting closer and closer to the steamer. Finally the evil prevails, the devoted black helmsman is murdered from a spear. The setting had built an unhealthy darkness that doesn’t allow the reader even the slightest chance to forget the focus of the nouvelle; the darkness within the heart of the jungle gradually fills the heart of the protagonist and respectfully the reader’s too.

Maybe the most interesting part of the setting is Marlow’s meeting with Kurtz at the Inner Station. The setting presents the true darkness, the very heart of it. It also echoes the cries of the Russian sailor who meets Marlow at his arrival. From the story of the naïve young sailor Marlow understands about Kurtz’s brilliance and the semi-divine power he exercises over the natives. The setting provides the visual confirmation of Kurtz’s cruelty. A row of severed heads on stakes round the hut gives an intimation of the barbaric rites by which Kurtz’s has achieved his ascendancy. An educated man like Marlow, a very intelligent one, a man of promise for the Company Kurtz has used his brains and gun, symbol of civilization, to enslave the natives and make his one dark tribe that would inhabit the heart of darkness.

Though at first sight the setting looks like a true adventure one underneath transpires the psychological and moral level of the work as a whole. Moreover Conrad’s nouvelle and respectfully it’s setting is also a symbolic journey of the soul towards the heart of man which he sees as capable of great evil. Kurtz is good personification of this particular idea. The setting may be interpreted as an allusion to Dante’s The Inferno, Marlow’s journey looks like an expedition to the underworld, a journey through the circles of hell and Kurtz is the devil himself. But the devil doesn’t want to leave his tribe nor do they want to leave him. When his tired and sick body is taken in the steamboat his black mistress appears. She looks at him with her “wild-eyes” giving Kurtz the power to live on but he couldn’t.

The setting changes and presents the deck of the steamboat. Kurtz is lying there awarding Marlow with his manuscripts and his words, his last ones “The horror! The horror!”. The setting reveals the whole moral of Conrad’s work, or in Marlow’s words “the moral victory”. For Kurtz the horror he talks of is his life and like he has shown the reader man is capable of great evil. Kurtz has neglected the signals of his heart that evil was inside him. Kurtz is outside of control of the moral rules of civilization whose representative he is. So the horror is he himself, the heart of darkness is not the jungle anymore but his own. The setting has changed once again only to become Kurtz himself, the most important figure for the nouvelle, the heart of it, the heart of darkness. The setting is one of the most important for the work because it reveals simple but existential truths to the reader. Man finds himself when is isolated especially from civilization as Kurtz does. But why is he considered mad by the “civilized” people that get in touch with him. He is mad for them because he had taken off the mask and everybody can see his true face – evil or remarkable is up to the reader to decided.

The important role of the setting is capturing the attention and the thoughts of the reader. Kurtz was like Marlow – an uncorrupted creature from the imperialist world that wanted to help the natives rather than colonize them but the darkness prevailed his heart and Marlow sees what he could become if he lost the trail. But Kurtz recognizes his action as cruel and evil that is his horror, he knows that what he is doing is wrong but the heart of darkness haven’t given him another option to survive. The setting also reminds the reader through the character of Kurtz of Europe at the end of the Imperialism era. The nouvelle is not only an adventure story but a political statement as well. Kurtz’s relationship with his mistress represents Europe’s love for their imperialized country, only the passion is temporary.

Kurtz dies leaving Marlow and the reader with the conviction that they should explore what is inside them and in most cases they’ll find their own heart of darkness. Intriguing are also Kurtz’s manuscripts and the words “Exterminate all the brutes!” He never told who are the brutes but the overall impression is that the brutes are not the uncivilized man, maybe everyone should find the brute within himself and exterminate it. The philosophical manuscripts did not solve any problems they just have shaped Marlow’s perspective and although he didn’t approve of Kurtz’s actions he was amazed with his spiritual and intellectual power, with the ability to persuade. That is exactly why Marlow stays loyal to Kurtz’s even after his death.

The setting takes the reader back to Belgium in the house of Kurtz’s fiancée. She, the woman that will always wait for him and always will mourn for him. She believes that she is the person that understood Kurtz best but Marlow is not convinced in that and he lies her about Kurtz’s last words. He never tells her what they really were, he mentions only that they gave him her name and that’s why he found her. Marlow is not sure if she’ll understand Kurtz’s ‘horror’. Africa has become a topology of his mind and the mind in general. Letting the forgotten savagery in the European and being the symbol of man’s inner change. Kurtz’s ‘horror’ is Marlow’s self discovery. The importance of the setting, given that it has shown to the reader the Congo region in it’s very heart of darkness, is that reminds the reader that it is time to make their own self searching.

Last but not least the setting of the nouvelle has shown darkness, the heart of it. It is important for the work as a whole because it presents Marlow’s individual journey towards enlightment that serves the purpose of a model for the reader to follow. It presents also Kurtz’s ‘horror’ who has taken one step further in the dark continent that Marlow is not ready and willing to take. The setting of the whole work enriches the reader following the narrator in the serpentine Congo. The setting emphasizes the idea of the conflict of what is real versus what is ‘dark’. Here particularly the word ‘real’ represents the civilized part of the world while dark is Africa. Marlow represents civilization on the edge while Kurtz represents civilization stepped over leading in the ‘darkness’.

The setting also is ivory, Conrad uses it as a symbol of man’s inner savagery, greed and evil. The author also uses ivory as contradiction to the usual symbols of good and evil. If good is represented with the white colour, here is Heart of Darkness ivory is the evil part no matter that it is one of the purest and whitest materials in the world. The contradiction the setting presents entraps the attention of the reader and provokes once again his search for self-discovery. The setting is pretty important to the work as a whole because it reveals the darkness within every one of us; the question is whether like Marlow we shall defeat it and gain enlightment or be defeated by it like Kurtz and fall in the very heart of Darkness.

Id, Ego and Superego in Literature

Within Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow asserts that “the mind of man is capable of anything–because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future” (HOD 109.) As Marlow journeys deeper into the Congo he is forced to adapt to the jungle environment and in the process he begins to lose his understanding of societal rules and ideals. His “psychological self” is coerced into adapting to the rustic environment of the Congo hence disturbing the balance between his id, ego and superego.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies similarly deals with this deteriorating awareness of societal standards in foreign environments, but does so with a group of young boys on an uninhabited island. Throughout Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies Marlow, Kurtz and the boys clearly demonstrate the capacity of the human mind in reflection to the principles of Sigmund Freud according to his definition of the id, ego and superego.

Read more: Jack quotes lord of the flies essay

In Heart of Darkness, Marlow demonstrates the capability of the human mind as he makes his journey up the Congo River and adapts to the savage environment that surrounds him. While adapting to his environment, Marlow begins to disregard societal standards and hence his “psychological sense” is altered in that Marlow’s ego and super ego subside in his overall nature, resorting to the “pleasure principle” that we now call the id. Marlow’s id begins to cease control of his personality and his innate instinctive nature is released. It is this imbalance of his “psychological self” which acts as an instigator for the evil found in him and all men. When Marlow states that “Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world,” (HOD 105) he is trying to depict his journey up the river as a representation of his discovery of the innate wickedness present in all mankind. The disappearance of Marlow’s super ego is imminent throughout his journey up the Congo. The presence of authority, society, and civilized people begin to fade just as his concepts of right and wrong are lost as he journeys further on and thus the innate wickedness of man emerges. Marlow’s savagery is the result of adaptation and the growing disproportion of his id to his ego and super ego.

His disregarding of his ego and super ego can be seen when he says, “but if you try to shout I’ll smash your head with’…’I will throttle you for good” (HOD 148.) This statement confirms that Marlow is straying further from the ideals of society and shows that Marlow’s perceived self is making a transition from being civilized (superego) to becoming a savage (id.) When Marlow meets Kurtz, he finds a man that has totally thrown off the restraints of his own ego/superego and has deteriorated into the primitive state of the id. Therefore Kurtz serves as an excellent example of Marlow’s assertion in that he has forgotten society to such an extent that he does not even remember his life in Europe.

Kurtz’s isolation in Africa as well as his unbelievable power over the natives corrupted him and drove him to condone unspeakable acts such as cannibalism and human sacrifice (destruction/Thanatos=pleasure for Kurtz.) In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s last words depict his terror and his realization of his final fate, “The horror! The horror!” (HOD 154) Kurtz realizes how far he has strayed from society, and finally admits to his evil acts in Africa. Hence, it was the imbalance of the characters “psychological selves” due to displacement from society (society gave them the sense of right and wrong) that caused the innate evil to reveal itself in the characters Marlow and Kurtz. The augmented id created a disproportion between the other counterparts of the “psychological self” and thus facilitated the intrinsically evil nature of all men including Marlow and Kurtz.

In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the boys are reduced to an instinctive and almost animalistic state due to the lack of authority and society, as well as the need to adapt to a new primordial surrounding. The boys are stranded on an island by themselves and must adapt in order to assure their survival. When they first arrive the boys act in an orderly fashion, and begin the construction of a governmental system to parallel a functional society. This system is representative of the boy’s super egos. This system soon fails however, when the boys learn that they must revert to their animal instincts (id) in order to survive. This transition from being civilized to becoming savage is revealed in the book when the narrator states, “They bumped Piggy, who was burnt and yelled and danced. Immediately, Ralph and the crowd of boys were united and relieved by a storm of laughter” (LOTF 149.) This example simply depicts the great change that has occurred among the boys in that they further hurt Piggy’s burn wound on the account of carelessness while playing a savage like game.

The fact that none of the children apologize for their acts further prove the transition of the boys from being civilized to becoming savage-like. The simple fact that a group of choirboys, who were exemplary individuals, could change into savages that kill one another further proves Marlow’s assertion that the mind is capable of anything. At the end of Lord of the Flies, the boys come to realize the transformation of their initial choirboy natures when they are confronted with authority in the form of a naval officer. The narrator states that “One of them came close to the officer and looked up. I’m…I’m; but there was no more to come” (LOTF 201.)

Percival has changed so much throughout his time on the island that he cannot even recall his own name. On the whole, three characters can be linked with each of the three psychodynamic principles: Jack represents the id with his constant desire to hunt and kill (death drive,) Ralph represents the ego with his attempts to satisfy both sides of his own mind and others on a greater level while keeping in touch with reality, and Piggy represents the superego by acting as the conscience for the group, maintaining the very principles that the boys have lost. If one were to look at this novel as an analysis of the individuals one would perhaps miss out on the greater picture. By combining the characteristics and actions of all the characters you can really see the greater picture of what Freud describes in his theories.

Both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies contain characters that are changed from civilized beings, that are able to balance the urges of the id and constraints of the ego/superego, into savages. Within the novels the lack of authority and society as well as the presence of a primeval surrounding causes the innate evil within man to awaken. By removing societal pressures and surroundings, the instinctive id nature overpowers mans ego and super ego. This disturbance in equilibrium causes the innate evil found in all people to manifest itself.

Freud’s conception of the human psyche illustrated that the majority of what we experience in our lives, the underlying emotions, beliefs, feelings, and impulses are not available to us at a conscious level. He believed that most of what drives us is buried in our unconscious. Like mentioned above, these choirboys and sophisticated Europeans never imagined that they would be acting as they did when they reached their respective destinations. The immense unconscious id took over in many of the characters but when brought back into society returned to their previous balances.

Books used

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, published in 1959 by Perigee Trade

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, published in 1997 by Mass Market Paperback

Moral Ambiguity in Heart of Darkness

In _Heart of Darkness_, by Joseph Conrad, the character Marlow, through his actions and experiences, shows himself to be morally ambiguous in that he goes on the European’s malevolent expedition to Africa yet he seems to despise the events he sees there and in that he performs both noble and ignoble deeds. These experiences and actions drive Conrad’s theme of European influence and colonialism corrupting, in this case, Africa. Marlow is a sailor who is traveling through Africa on a steam boat and who works for a company that is attempting to gain riches for Europe.

His moral ambiguity is shown by the fact that he is participating in this heinous expedition yet, at the same time, he seems to despise it. Marlow, as he sailed along the coast, saw “a man-of-war anchored off the coast…shelling the bush…There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding… [which] was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives – he called them enemies! – hidden out of sight somewhere.

” (pg.18 ).

Marlow’s word choice depicts the corrupting influence of Europe because it speaks of how he saw a man-of-war, a French ship, attack natives who were, in his opinion, unjustly called enemies. What truly shows this to be a corrupting influence, however, is his use of the word “insanity” to describe the event; insanity here is meant to show that this event, caused by Europeans, is unnatural to Africa and disrupts its calm. Next, Marlow spoke of other Europeans who came to Africa such as the “devoted band…called…the Eldorado Exploring Expedition… To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire…with no…moral purpose at the back of it” (pg. 42). The Eldorado Expedition, as Marlow saw it, was the typical devoted European band which he felt was nothing but a bunch of dirty thieves -with no regard for the greater good- who, through their actions, would desecrate Africa by ripping away its riches. Finally, Marlow, as he was walking with Kurtz’s admirer, saw “heads on stakes…They showed that Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.” (pg. 81).

Kurtz is a European who was sent by the company to get the treasures of Africa for Europe and to colonize it, but, when Marlow sees what Kurtz does he says that Kurtz is unable to restrain his lust. This, in and of itself, may seem unimportant, but, it infers that all the Europeans going to Africa are driven by lust and the main function of lust is traditionally corruption, hence, the Europeans going to Africa will do nothing but corrupt it. In addition to utilizing Marlow’s experience, Joseph Conrad utilizes Marlow’s conflicting actions in order, not only to reinforce Marlow’s moral ambiguity, but to further depict the corrupting influence of Europe on Africa. The first thing the Conrad did was have Marlow take “the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower” (pg. 8 ) Here Marlow acts like Buddha, a symbol of someone who is enlightened and good, which makes it clear that everything Marlow says is true and that his ultimate opinion, that being that Europe corrupts, is an absolute truth.

Next Marlow empathetically said, “‘Nevertheless I think Mr. Kurtz is a remarkable man’” (pg. 88 ) Marlow’s action appears to contrast with the perfection given to him by his earlier Buddha pose because he is supporting and admiring Kurtz, the person who took his lust to the extreme and the person who represents the ultimate level of European corruption. Marlow, however, must be right about Kurtz’s remarkable nature in some way because he is portrayed as Buddha though, contrary to what one might think at the beginning of the book, this portrayal does not portend moral perfection on Marlow’s part as shown later in the book. The only way in which Kurtz is remarkable is in his excessive level of lust; hence, Marlow’s statement implies that Europe is a ceaselessly corrupting influence, varying only in the degree of corruption from person to person. Finally, Marlow, when observing Kurtz’s wife, sees, “the faith that [is] in her…that great saving illusion [shining] with an unearthly glow in the…triumphant darkness” (pg 107).

Marlow’s observation shows that in a world of corruption and darkness, the European world, Kurtz’s wife deludes herself by creating a world of light and good in her own mind, this fact is necessary in order to understand the importance of the exchange following this observation. The exchange between Marlow and Kurtz’s wife begins with Marlow unwisely saying, “I heard his very last words” (pg. 109) leading to Kurtz’s wife asking him to “‘Repeat them’…in a heart broken tone’” (pg. 109) and, although Kurtz’s true last words were “‘The horror! the horror!’” (pg. 109) Marlow told her that, “‘The last word he pronounced was – your name’” (pg. 109). The importance of this conversation is that it shows the reality of Kurtz’s vision, that being “the horror”, through Marlow’s noble lie.

It was already shown that Kurtz’s wife lived in an illusionary world, this, combined with Marlow lying to her when she asked for Kurtz’s last words, shows that what Kurtz saw of Europe, a horror, was the truth. Conveniently, Marlow’s act of not shattering Kurtz’s wife’s illusion contrasts with his support of Kurtz, which caused him to seem vile, thus making it impossible to legitimately argue that Marlow is wholly good or bad, only that he is right. Marlow, through his experiences and actions, is depicted as a moral ambiguity and this ambiguity is the tool with which Joseph Conrad develops his theme of European corruption on other peoples and places.

Marlow participates in the heinous European expedition yet his opinion of the events he sees are negative thus demonstrating the corrupting influence of Europe, and his actions, which present him as both enlightened and morally ambiguous, also emphasizes the corrupting influence of Europe through the expression of his opinion. Ironically, his ambiguity is symbolic of the ambiguity of the Europeans themselves in that go to other places, such as Africa, with intentions akin to enlightening the people they encounter but, despite the fact that they may succeed in enlightening those people, they corrupt them as well.

Similarities and Differences Between Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness and its film adaptation, Apocalypse Now, are the same story, but have differences in certain details. Both are a story within a story and both feature relatively the same characters. However, Heart of Darkness is about a man named Marlow, who was sent on a mission to find and bring back to civilization a man named Kurtz while Marlow was taking ivory up the Congo River. Apocalypse Now outlines the travels in Vietnam of a man named Willard, whose primary mission is to find Kurtz and destroy him.

Although the film tells the same story, details have been changed to fit the medium of film.

For example, the scene of Marlow telling a story to a group of men in the book was changed to Willard receiving his mission right away. Also, the scenes were much more graphic in the film than in the book; Coppola opted to use visually stimulating elements while Conrad simply told a story.

Apocalypse Now followed the framework of heart of darkness, the main characters of Marlow/Willard and Kurtz are multifaceted, and the events at the end of both the novel and the film, as well as the darkness that is implied, suggest a deeper meaning to Kurtz’s final words.

Heart of Darkness is an autobiographical account of Charlie Marlow and his journey up the Congo River in the nineteenth century. The story begins with a narrator other than Marlow explaining that Marlow was sitting with a group of men on a boat. Marlow then begins to tell the story of when he was sent on a mission to find a Mr. Kurtz and bring him back to civilization under the guise of the search for ivory. Kurtz was educating the natives and sending back several shipments of ivory. When Marlow found Kurtz, Kurtz had been changed. He was now as barbaric as the natives.

Marlow took Kurtz to the boat to take him back home. While the boat was being repaired, Kurtz died. Apocalypse Now told the same basic story , but with details slightly changed. Benjamin Willard, a captain in the United States Army, was sent on a mission to find Kurtz and murder him. Kurtz was described as a mad man who had deserted the military in order to form his own army. Kurtz sought power. Willard then begins his journey, like Marlow, up the river. When Willard arrives at Kurtz’s stronghold, Willard is taken to talk to Kurtz.

Willard sees the savagery of the island, and carries out his mission. Francis Ford Coppola, director of Apocalypse Now, takes Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and sets the story on a modern stage. The framework of the story is the same in both versions; a man is sent to find another man, having to boat up river to do so. The structure of the narration of Heart of Darkness could be the most important component of the book. According to Linda Costanzo Cahir, the structure of the narration of Heart of Darkness is cinematic. (184) There is an “unseen” narrator, a narrator other than Marlow.

Apocalypse Now has narration similar to that of the book. Besides Willard, the other narrator is the camera. Heart of Darkness is framed by the same opening and closing scene; Marlow on the boat, legs crossed and palms turned outward, retelling a story of which he was to find a man and bring him back to civilization. The scene takes place on board the Nellie on the Thames River. Apocalypse Now does not frame the tale in this way. The thought of Willard, depicted throughout the film as a strong and determined man, retelling his story in such a quaint manner is comedic.

The sense of strength is recurring throughout the film and suits it well. The film and novel are set in different places. Apocalypse Now is set in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War while Heart of Darkness is set in the Belgian Congo in the nineteenth century. Although the settings are different, each version feels eerily similar. The audience can feel the darkness and the danger that is depicted in each version. For example, in the scene when sticks are being thrown at the men on the boat, the men on the boat think the sticks are arrows.

When they determine that they are not, everyone relaxes, until a spear is thrown, and a man dies. This scene is the same in both the film and the book, and in the mind’s eye, it looks as though the scene took place is the same spot, when actually the scene took place in two different rivers. Coppola clung to the framework of Conrad’s tale. There are slight differences between versions, but the end result and meaning are the same. The quote of the critic is true. Coppola did stick to the basic framework of Conrad’s tale. Perhaps Coppola did believe that it would make his film as great as its inspiration.

However, several details that were present in Heart of Darkness were changed or omitted in Apocalypse Now. For example, Willard murders Kurtz at the end of the film, whereas in the book, Marlow has orders to take Kurtz back to civilization. It is important to note that even though there are slight distortions, the film preserves essential scenes and meanings from the book. The characters of Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and Willard and Kurtz in Apocalypse Now are essential to both versions and to the story as a whole. Conrad’s Marlow and Coppola’s Willard are essentially the same character.

Despite the obvious; both Marlow and Willard were on a mission to find Kurtz, the characters of Marlow and Willard both are men who are self-assured. They are both comfortable in leadership positions; Willard was a captain in the army, Marlow was the captain of the boat he took up the river to find Kurtz and transport the ivory. They are also both curious and judgmental. It has been argued that Willard is a “murderer confronting a murderer. ” (Casebook, 194) It is suggested that Willard does not have morals, but Marlow does. It is true that Marlow does not murder Kurtz, but this character is not without fault.

In Conrad’s tale, Marlow begins to lie, an act that, at the beginning of the story, he detests. If Marlow had morals, he would have stayed true to himself and would not have begun to lie. The only moral difference between Willard and Marlow was that Willard was first introduced as having no morals and Marlow was introduced as the opposite. In the end, however, both Marlow’s and Willard’s stories have similar truths. Both confronted darkness in its purest form, in man. Both characters had been changed, perhaps not for the better, but changed nonetheless.

As for Conrad’s Kurtz and Coppola’s Kurtz, Conrad’s character is seen mostly through the dialogue of others, while Coppola’s Kurtz is a tangible character that the view can see and hear. Both characters, however, are selfish and deluded by the time Marlow, or Willard, meets him. The two men’s professional lives are reversed in Coppola’s film. In the film, it is Kurtz who is the dedicated serviceman while the audience, nor Kurtz for that matter, is never certain of Willard’s position or dedication. This is evident when Kurtz asks Willard, “Are you an assassin?

” Willard then replies, “I’m a soldier. ” This is when Kurtz corrects him with, “You’re neither. You’re an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill. ” In the book, it is Marlow who has the definite profession, while the reader is not quite sure what Kurtz’s role is. (Greiff, 486) Kurtz traveled to a world where he wanted to change the natives for the better. Instead, Kurtz became entangled in their world, frequently killing others for ivory. He became a savage. Kurtz noticed the darkness and wanted to bring light in. However, he never got that far.

This point is made in both the novel and the film. Darkness is in everyone, at the center of the human experience, and it existed in Kurtz. (“Heart of Darkness”, 361) The events of the end of both the book and the film explain the meaning of darkness, in one’s environment as well as in oneself. Events that immediately preceded Kurtz’s death in Heart of Darkness include Kurtz trying to escape the boat that is taking him to civilization and go back into the wilderness. Marlow lies to him to get him back onto the boat. Also, Kurtz mentions that darkness is everywhere, including in oneself.

The events that immediately preceded Kurtz’s death in Apocalypse Now include Willard being taken prisoner by savages and a cow being slaughtered. In the film, the cow being slaughtered gives a lasting impression of Kurtz’s final words, “The horror. ” The cow was slaughtered as Kurtz was being killed by Willard. The death of the cow, as well as the death of Kurtz, symbolizes Kurtz’s last words. Kurtz realized in his final moments that darkness and horror was all around him, and that, in a manner of speaking, he created that darkness for himself. In the novel, there is nothing but darkness.

This also gives a lasting impression of Kurtz’s last words. The darkness can be equally as horrific as slaughter, especially if the darkness is in oneself. In the film, the events that give credence to Kurtz’s last words are literal, whereas in the novel, the darkness that is spoken of is figurative. The events in the film show the viewer what horror looks like, while the events in the novel show what horror feels like. The cow being slaughtered was not present in the novel, only an idea of horror to ponder. The lying that Marlow partakes in in the novel shows the reader that darkness can indeed reside in everyone.

Marlow stated that he detested lying, but at the end of the book, Marlow said that he lied to Kurtz’s Intended. He told her that Kurtz’s last words were her name. It is mentioned that Kurtz saw a vision or an image just before he spoke his final words, but perhaps this image was not what Kurtz was referring to when he cried out, “The horror! The horror! ” (Conrad, 130) with his dying breath. Perhaps Kurtz meant the darkness that can overcome even the purest of men. In essence, Kurtz’s last words were a summation of the theme of the story.

Marlow’s journey, or Willard’s for that matter, was not just to travel to find a man, it was a journey within himself. Marlow mentioned at the beginning of the novel that he was retelling a story of self-discovery. (Guerard, 40) On that journey to find Kurtz, he found himself. Marlow returned to civilization a changed man. The framework for the film is the same as the novel, Marlow/Willard and Kurtz each found the darkness within themselves and were changed by the discovery, and Kurtz’s last words were rife with meaning because of the culmination of events.

The film and the novel might have different circumstances, but the end result is the same: the theme of darkness made it’s presence known throughout both versions and the main characters were changed because of it. There are certain parts of everyone that some would like to keep hidden. It is these darker parts of the Self that one must learn to control, or one’s world could fall apart. – Cahir, Linda Costanzo. “Narratological Parallels in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. ” Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. ed. Gene M. Moore. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. 2004. 183-194.

Apocalypse Now Analysis

The line “Mistah Kurtz – he dead” from T. S. Elliot’s poem ‘The Hollow Men’ refers to one of the movie’s main characters: Mr. Kurtz, a European trader who had gone into “the heart of darkness” ie the middle of the vast Vietnamese jungle with European standards of life and behavior. Because he’s alienated from the morals and spiritual strengths he cannot maintain his sanity and soon turns into a barbarian. “Eyes they dare not meet in dreams” – in my mind, these are the eyes of the innocent Vietnamese whose death they ordered.

They’ being the American soldiers who, throughout the duration of their journey through the jungle lost their sanity and were brainwashed because of the weapons they were given. What I was particularly fascinated by in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ was the way the good can somehow turn into the evil, not on their own, but because of their surroundings. “[.. ] We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane” –said by director and producer, Coppola at the Cannes film festival in 1979.

Even the director had, little by little, gone insane being exposed to the Vietnamese jungle for so many years. The making of the film had taken more than 10 years and $30million to create which had brought Coppola to attempted suicide a couple of times. The film is based on the novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ which took place during the Vietnam War, where the American and the Vietnamese soldiers showed no mercy when it came to a matter of life and death.

Throughout the film, I realized that the main character, Captain Willard, sent to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, began to be more and more captivated by Kurtz’s achievements and was beginning to think like him as he was exposed to immoral atrocities of the Great War. When General Corman described Willard’s mission to him he told him “In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. Out there with these natives it must be a temptation to be god.

Because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane. ” This quote reminds me of Dante’s Inferno mentioned in the poem “The Hollow Men” – a journey through the different circles of hell depending on the type of person one was and the type of crime they had committed during their lifetime.

The man is clear in his mind but his soul is mad. ” Like Alberto Giacometti, Kurtz and Willard develop two faces during the time of the war. The only difference is that Giacometti didn’t need a war to show this, his dual personality was natural in criticizing himself, his paintings and his sculptures. Whilst watching the film I found it mainly disturbing how these men, men with families, men who had peaceful souls, could casually blow off the head of a Vietnamese person without feeling just a tiny bit of hurt in their hearts.

They could “kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgement that defeats us. ” The fact that these characters, sent out on mission through the rivers of a foreign place, were simple men, one a chef, the other a surfer, and the other a sailor gives the audience the feeling that this could happen to anyone. Being placed in the jungles of Vietnam with nothing but weapons would turn us into these animalistic beings with only one instinct: kill to survive. Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” This film is, in fact, all about losing one’s mind, being brainwashed by the immoralities of society, to be converted into an emotionless killer. It’s about the delusion of what an evil man is in the normal person’s eyes compared to what an evil man is in the brainwashed person’s eyes.

Is Chinua Achebe Correct in Asserting That Heart of Darkness Is Essentially a Racist Novel

Chinua Achebe’s’ expresses his view on Heart of Darkness as an essentially racist novel and he is correct in saying this. His essay focuses mainly on the portrayal of the Congo as an ‘other world’ in which Conrad describes it to be an antithesis of Europe and the European standards and overall of civilisation as a whole. The racism presented by Conrad in the novel is evident through his manipulation of perspective and dehumanisation of the native Africans as discussed in Achebe’s essay.

Joseph Conrad manipulates the perspective of the reader and the attitude they have towards the natives and Europeans alike through the bestowal of human expression to Europeans and the withholding of it from the Africans, as Achebe explains. When comparing the description of the two women, the African woman and European woman, the reader is able to depict a subtle yet definite difference in the way each woman’s expression is characterised. The African woman, who is seen to be as a mistress to Mr Kurtz, is illustrated as a very mysterious figure ‘’with an air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose’’ making her character unidentifiable.

Whereas the European woman is talked about more clearly and the reader can easily recognise her character because she is given emotions and feeling, ‘’she had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering’’. In Conrad characterising each woman in such different ways, the reader feels as though the European woman is more relatable as opposed to the native woman who is not expressed with feelings. This lack of human expression in the description of the African woman, as commented on by Achebe, created a noticeable barrier between the complexity of natives and Europeans.

For the most part, the natives are not given any dialogue but instead their speech is replaced with ‘’a violent babble of uncouth sounds’’. Achebe however, refers to two significant parts of the novel when native Africans are given English dialogue. These are when the cannibals request the humans to eat, ‘’catch ‘im. Give ‘im to us. ’’. As well as the famous announcement, ‘’Mistah Kurtz—he dead’’. When first read, the reader thinks of these as high points for the natives because they appear to be at the same level as the Europeans in terms of getting dialogue ithin the novel. Chinua Achebe opposes this by stating that in reality they constitute some of his best assaults as these examples of dialogue in fact degrade the natives. This changes the reader’s perspective into assume that through the use of grunts and incoherent speech they are inferior and inarticulate in comparison to the language used by the Europeans. This difference in amount and quality of dialogue between the Africans and colonising Europeans contributes to making Heart of Darkness an essentially a racist novel.

The novel reveals the Africans being reduced to metaphorical expanse of dangerous and dark jungle of animals into which the European colonists venture. Chinua Achebe is correct in criticising Heart of Darkness as a racist novel, this is seen particularly through Conrad’s dehumanisation of the Congolese natives. Throughout the novel Conrad’s descriptions of the natives are used to create the idea of uncivilised, savage being whom cannot be of the same standards as the Europeans. Conrad’s most effective way of dehumanising the African people is through his use of imagery, ‘’a whirl of black limbs, as mass of hands’’.

This does not give the impression that these are human beings but instead that they are just parts of humans, therefore making them seem incomplete and inferior in comparison the way Europeans are described. This imagery is also important when Conrad describes native workers as ‘’decaying machinery’’, this creates the image that the Congolese are not valued as humans, as Europeans are, but rather as disposable articles who can easily be replaced after they have done their work. The language choices in which Conrad has made also have a great impact on the way the natives are perceived.

By using phrases such as ‘’the beaten nigger groaned somewhere’’, the Congolese natives are referred to in a very uncivilised manner. A way in which no European would ever be described leads the reader to believe that the Africans are in fact inferior to the Europeans, making them less of a human. These descriptions make it evident that Conrad’s writing involving the natives made them appear beast-like and savage therefore dehumanising them in a way that can only be seen as racist.

Although these racial depictions may not be used to knowingly dehumanise and objectify the Congolese people, Chinua Achebe rightly criticises Heart of Darkness as a racist novel. The constant comparison between the two cultures, African and European, are simply explained as one being civilised whereas the other is portrayed as savage. The unavoidable reality that Conrad’s descriptions of the natives were accurate expressions of the European perspective justifies Achebe’s assertion that Heart of Darkness is essentially a racist novel.

Heart of Darkness in the Light of Psychoanalytic Theories

Psychoanalytic criticism originated in the work of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who pioneered the technique of psychoanalysis. Freud developed a language that described, a model that explained, and a theory that encompassed human psychology. His theories are directly and indirectly concerned with the nature of the unconscious mind. Through his multiple case studies, Freud managed to find convincing evidence that most of our actions are motivated by psychological forces over which we have very limited control (Guerin 127).

One of Freud’s most important contributions to the study of the psyche is his theory of repression: the unconscious mind is a repository of repressed desires, feelings, memories, wishes and instinctual drives; many of which have to do with sexuality and violence.

These unconscious wishes, according to Freud, can find expression in dreams because dreams distort the unconscious material and make it appear different from itself and more acceptable to consciousness. They may also appear in other disguised forms, like in language (sometimes called the Freudian slips), in creative art and in neurotic behavior.

One of the unconscious desires Freud believed that all human beings supposedly suppress is the childhood desire to displace the parent of the same sex and to take his or her place in the affections of the parent of the opposite sex. This so-called “Oedipus Complex,” which all children experience as a rite of passage to adult gender identity, lies at the core of Freud’s sexual theory (Murfin 114-5). A principal element in Freud’s theory is his assignment of the mental processes to three psychic zones: the id, the ego and the superego.

The id is the passional, irrational, and unconscious part of the psyche. It is the site of the energy of the mind, energy that Freud characterized as a combination of sexual libido and other instincts, such as aggression, that propel the human organism through life, moving it to grow, develop and eventually to die. That primary process of life is completely irrational, and it cannot distinguish reasonable objects and unreasonable or socially unacceptable ones. Here comes the secondary processes of the mind, lodged in the ego and the superego.

The ego, or “I,” was Freud’s term for the predominantly rational, logical, orderly and conscious part of the psyche; it works on repressing and inhibiting the drives of the id so that they may be released in sane behavioral patterns. And though a large part of the ego is unconscious, it nevertheless includes what we think of as the conscious mind. The superego is a projection of the ego. It is the moral censoring agency; the part that makes moral judgments and the repository of conscience and pride.

It brings reason, order and social acceptability to the otherwise uncontrolled and potentially harmful realm of biological impulses (Guerin 128-31). Freud’s theories have launched what is now known as the psychoanalytic approach to literature. Freud was interested in writers, especially those who depended largely on symbols. Such writers tend to tinge their ideas and figures with mystery or ambiguity that only make sense once interpreted, just as the analyst tries to figure out the dreams and bizarre actions that the unconscious mind of a neurotic releases out of repression.

A work of literature is thus treated as a fantasy or a dream that Freudian analysis comes to explain the nature of the mind that produced it. The purpose of a work of art is what psychoanalysis has found to be the purpose of the dream: the secret gratification of an infantile and forbidden wish that has been repressed into the unconscious (Wright 765). The literal surface of a work of literature is sometimes called the “manifest content” and treated as “manifest dream” or “dream story.

” The psychoanalytic literary critic tries to analyze the latent, underlying content of the work, or the “dream thought” hidden in the dream story. Freud used the terms “condensation” and “displacement” to explain the mental processes that result in the disguise of the wishes and fears in dream stories. In condensation, several wishes, anxieties or persons may be condensed into a single manifestation or image in dream story; in displacement, a thought or a person may be displaced onto the image of another with which or whom there is an extremely loose and arbitrary association that only an analyst can decode.

Psychoanalytic critics treat metaphors as if they were dream condensations; they treat metonyms- figures of speech based on weak connections- as if they were dream displacements. Thus, figures of speech in general are treated as aspects that see the light when the writer’s conscious mind resists what the unconscious asks it to depict or describe. Psychoanalytic criticism written before 1950 tended to study the psyche of the individual author.

Poems, novels and plays were treated as fantasies that allowed authors to release curbed desires, or to protect themselves from deep- rooted fears, or both. Later, psychoanalytic critics stopped assuming that artists are borderline neurotics or that the characters they fabricate and the figurative language they use can be analyzed to figure out the dark, hidden fancies in the authors’ minds. So they moved their focus toward the psychology of the reader, and came to understand that artists are skilled creators of works that appeal to the readers’ repressed wishes.

As such, psychoanalytic criticism typically attempts to do at least one of the following tasks: study the psychological traits of a writer; provide an analysis of the creative process; or explore the psychological impacts of literature on its readers (Murfin 115-20). Not all psychoanalytic critics, however, are Freudian. Many of them are persuaded by the writings of Carl Gustav Jung whose “analytical psychology” is different from Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Jung had broken with Freud’s emphasis on libidinal drives and had developed a theory of the collective unconscious; although, like Freud, he believed in a personal unconscious as a repository of repressed feelings (Wright 767). The processes of the unconscious psyche, according to Jung, produce images, symbols and myths that belong to the large human culture. He refers to the manifestations of the “myth-forming” elements as “motifs,” “primordial images,” or “archetypes. ” Jung indicated further that the dreams, myths and art all serve as media through which archetypes become accessible to the consciousness.

One major contribution is Jung’s theory of individuation which is the process of discovering those aspects of one’s self that make one an individual different from other people. It is, according to Jung, an absolutely essential process if one is to become a balanced individual; he detected an intimate relationship between neurosis and the person’s failure to accept some archetypal features of his unconscious. Individuation is related to three archetypes designated as shadow, persona and anima. These are structural components that human beings have inherited.

We encounter their symbolic projections throughout the myths and literatures of humankind. The shadow is the darker side of our unconscious self, the inferior and less pleasing aspects of the personality. The anima is the “soul-image;” the source of a man’s life force. Jung gives it a feminine designation in the man’s psyche; it is the contra-sexual part that a man carries in his personal and collective unconscious.

The persona is the opposite of the anima; it is our social personality and the mediator between our ego and the external world. A balanced man has a flexible persona that is in harmony with the other components of his psychic makeup (Guerin 178-83). Through the lenses of Jungian psychoanalysis, the literary text is no longer seen as a site where the quelled impulses get through in disguise. Instead, Jung maintains that “both the individual in dreams and the artist at work will produce archetypal images to compensate for any psychic impoverishment in man and society. “

He untangles texts of literature by a method he calls ?amplification’: the images of the collective unconscious are derived from those of the personal (Wright 767). Despite its monotonous rehearsing of a number of themes, psychoanalytic theory has led to a better understanding of the complexities of the relation between the human being and the artistic creativity. Heart of Darkness in the light of Psychoanalytic theories. Heart of Darkness explores something truer, more fundamental, and distinctly less material than just a personal narrative. It is a night journey into the unconscious, and a confrontation of an entity within the self.

Certain circumstances of Marlow’s voyage, looked at in these terms, take on a new importance. The true night journey can occur only in sleep or in a walking dream of a profoundly intuitive mind. Marlow insists on the dreamlike quality of his narrative. “It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream – making a vein attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation” (Conrad 38). Even before leaving Brussels, Marlow felt as though he “was about to set off for center of the earth,” not the center of a continent (16).

The introspective voyager leaves his familiar rational world, is “cut off from the comprehension” of his surroundings, his steamer toils “along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy” (52). As the crisis approaches, the dreamer and his ship moves through a silence that “seemed unnatural, like a state of trance; then enter a deep fog” (57). The novel penetrates to those areas of darkness and dream – indeed nightmare ? with which Conrad tried to define the substance of the world. It asks questions, destabilizes orthodox assumptions, and sketches an existentially absurd experience.

It involves us in dramatic, crucially difficult moral decisions which parallel those of the two central characters, Marlow and Kurtz. Although it was a coincidence that Freud and Conrad were contemporaries, coincidence is reduced when we perceive the “extraordinary parallelism of their achievements” (Karl 785). At the time when Conrad was developing his concepts about the Congo and political, personal and universal involvement in a nightmarish existence, Freud was fermenting his theories on dreams and the unconscious.

Conrad’s novel appeared in 1900, only months before Freud’s book Interpretation of Dreams which formed the manifesto of the psychoanalytic assumptions. Both Conrad and Freud were pioneers in their emphasis over the irrational aspects of man’s behavioral conduct which questioned the traditional analyses. Conrad insightfully stressed the irrationality of politics and its nightmarish character which rests on the neurotic symptoms of the leader, as well as on the collective neurosis of the masses.

He also believed in a human behavior that answers the call of inner desires, while justifying itself with accuracy. Both he and Freud dived into the darkness: the darkness enters the human soul when his conscience sleeps or when he is free to yield to the unconscious desires and needs, whether through dreams, as Freud argues, or in actuality through the character of Kurtz and his likes. Dreams become the wish-fulfillments of the masked self. This applies to Marlow; the very qualities in Kurtz that horrify him are those he finds hidden in himself.

Kurtz’s insatiable, Nietzchean fascination with power mirrors Marlow’s as well. Kurtz’s ruthless career is every man’s wish-fulfillment (Karl 785-6). In the novel, Conrad draws an image of Africa as the “other world,” the antithesis of a civilized Europe, a site where man’s accumulated years of education and sophistication are confronted by a striking savagery. The story opens on the River Thames, calm and peaceful. It then moves to the very opposite of the Thames, and takes place on the River Congo.

However, It’s not the flagrant difference between the two that perplexes Conrad but the underlying allusion of intimate relationship, of “common ancestry,” since the Thames was itself a dark place, but one that has managed to civilize, to enlighten itself and the world, and is now living in the light. The peaceful Thames, however, runs the terrible risk of being stirred by its encounter with its “primordial relative, the Congo;” it would witness the reflection of its own forsaken darkness and would hear the sounds that echo its remote gloomy history.

The Thames would fall victim to the ghastly reminiscences of the irrational frenzy of the primitive times (Achebe 262-3). It would be very helpful to quote one of the most interesting and most revealing passages in Heart of Darkness when representatives of Europe in a steamer going down the Congo encounter the denizens of Africa: We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth. [? ] We glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. [? ] They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; 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.

Ugly. [? ] but if you were man enough you would admit that there was in you just the faintest trace of response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you ? you so remote from the night of first ages ? could comprehend (51-2). Here in lies the meaning of Heart of Darkness that takes us on a journey into the unconscious world of the human beings through the psychoanalytic features inherent in the novel’s “dream story.

” Marlow, a man of discipline and justice, was expecting such values to exist elsewhere. They became a kind of psychological expectations. His great revelation takes place when he discovers that not all men share his belief in an orderly, fundamentally good society. His journey from Brussels to the Congo is full of elements of the absurd, elements that hint at a world that is suddenly irrational and out of focus. In the Congo, the jungle is surrounded by a dangerous feminine aura; the long river is described in “treacherous, serpentine terms;” everything about the nature conveys a sense of a mysterious and terrifying reality (Karl 786).

Marlow is fascinated by the jungle woman – Kurtz’s savage mistress – and her demanding display of sex, by her provocative measured walk. He is also drawn by her surprising sense of reality and her full acceptance of Kurtz with all the savagery he embodies. Her image contradicts with his ideal of womanhood he had known all his life: the girl back in Brussels, his aunt, the naive woman who believed in the Europeans’ grand mission in Africa. Marlow tries to resist the seductive aspect of the nature, much as he shies away from the attraction of power.

Sex lies heavily on the story, although Marlow never directly talks about it. The temptation is clear in his fears, in the jungle that conceals the terrors and the calls for orgiastic, uncontrollable sex. In the novel, Kurtz represents Europe; maneuvering for power, searching for advantages; he chose the route of ivory looting. His unquenchable hunger for possession is overwhelming. In Africa, he is free of all human barriers; civilized taboos are down. He is able to gratify all his forbidden desires and dwells on ultimate corruption, debarred of all restraints.

This lies at the heart of Marlow’s secret attraction to Kurtz; the latter’s will to brutal, superhuman power. Kurtz has “risen above the masses ? of natives, station managers, even of directors back in Brussels. He must continue to assert himself, a megalomaniac in search of further power. Marlow has never met anyone like him, [? ]” (Karl 787). One telling part in the novel comes with Kurtz’s death and his double scream “The horror! The horror! ” (Conrad 105). Marlow, out of his deep fascination with Kurtz and his need to believe in a good human nature, attributes a “Christian” reading to these words.

He understands the shriek as a moral victory: at the time of his death, Kurtz has reviewed his life and the corrupt part of him has repented. It’s arguable, though, that Kurtz’s cry might be one of anguish and despair, because he has to die with his work incomplete. In other words, he laments a fate which frustrates his plans. However, Marlow has explained the horror of this experience in human terms necessary to guarantee the flow of life. He protects the lie of Kurtz’s existence in order to preserve his own illusions (Karl 788-9).

Hence, we notice that Marlow, throughout his journey, has concealed from himself the reality of his own as well as others’ needs. The jungle is the mask that bars the light of sun and sky. The landscape becomes the repository of our anxieties and the vast protective camouflage that hides our inner fears. It bars the light of our conscience and rational capacities and becomes “part of the psychological as well as physical landscape” (Karl 788). It runs parallel to our unconscious mind where our repressed desires are hidden.

The “prehistoric earth,” that is still untouched by the hands of civilization, is but our rudimentary soul, in its raw, savage nature, unrefined and free of the conscious disguises. The “lurking hint of kinship” that the Europeans have felt at their encounter with the Africans is but a hint of deep connection existing between the rational and the irrational, the conscious and the unconscious. The “black and incomprehensible frenzy” of the strange bodies is a reminder of the uncontrollable libido.

This “wild and passionate uproar” is “ugly” because the wilderness and passion that nurture our disguised depths are a mass of animalistic drives, and our id that hosts all unfulfilled wishes carries the wildest of motivations. Yet, one cannot but heed “the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise” for one cannot fully resist the temptation to gratify his impulses and instinctual needs. In Freudian terms, our superego sometimes fails to have full control over its antithesis, the id. The boundaries that separate the unconscious from the conscious are blurred.

This terrible “frenzy” holds a meaning that, even the man who is “so remote from the night of first ages ? could comprehend”: the refined man is able to understand the noise because it communicates with an inherent ? although masked ? part of his soul. Thus, Africa has become a topology of the mind ? its location, its shape, its cultures, its textures, its rhythms, it hues, its wildness ? all calling forth something lost in the psychology of the white European. The darkness of the African continent, of its instinctual, shadowed, primeval underworld establishes a revealing context for an examination of the Jungian concepts in the novel.

Marlow’s journey, in Jungian terms, becomes a journey of individuation: a salvation realized through bringing the unconscious urges to consciousness ? a journey which can be contrasted to that of his diabolic double, Kurtz, who undergoes a psychological disintegration into his savage self and slips into “The horror! The horror! ” The shadow in Heart of Darkness is thus personified by Kurtz. Richard Hughs argues that Kurtz’s last words sum up the Jungian insight that “from the same root that produces wild, untamed, blind instinct there grow up the natural laws and cultural forms that tame and break its pristine power.

But when the animal in us is split off from consciousness by being repressed, it may easily burst out in full force, quite unregulated and uncontrolled. An outburst of this sort always ends in catastrophe ? the animal destroys itself” (21). Hughs adds that the novel is composed of two journeys into the hidden self, one is “horrifying, ending in personality destruction and death;” the other is “restorative, wisdom-producing, a gateway to wholeness [? ] Conrad has seized on the paradoxical quality of the descent into the unconscious [? ]” (58).

For Jung, the integration of the personality is not possible without a full descent into the unconscious and clearly the novel is about the descent into the depths, the underworld, into the very heart of darkness. “Jung’s awareness that the darkness is part of himself, that to deny the darkness would be self-mutilation, and the awareness is not erased but heightened by a recognition of that dark self: this is Marlow’s discovery” (Hughs 66). Marlow’s journey toward individuation and his encounter with the darkness of his own shadow are set against a backdrop of the personal and collective unconscious.

Kurtz is not only the personal shadow of Marlow, but the collective shadow of all Europe and of European imperialism. Throughout the novel there is a dense undergrowth of Congo unconsciousness, as Marlow succinctly states, “All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz” (73). In the midst of this journey of individuation, we encounter Jung’s concept of the anima personified by Kurtz’s wild mistress. She is a reflection of the soul of the wilderness, “she stood looking at us with a stir, and like the wilderness itself, with an air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose” (Conrad 92).

She is the savagely magnificent consort of the underworld and the feminine part of every man’s psyche. Hughs calls her “the grand archetype of the unconscious, consort of the mad Kurtz and the goal of the inner search” (268-9). Conrad’s novel descends into the unknowable darkness at the heart of Africa, taking its narrator, Marlow, on an underworld journey of individuation, a modern Odyssey toward the center of the Self and the center of the Earth. Interestingly, the narrative technique and the inherent symbolism in Heart of Darkness all contribute to the overall dream-like and nightmarish mood of the story.

The use of first person narrative was essential so that Conrad could distance himself from the lived experience and for the reader could identify with a common man thrown into a bizarre situation. Lacking Marlow as the narrator, the story would lose its credibility and would appear too distant from the real experience. Through repetition, difference of tone, analogy, duplicating images, doubling of scenes and characters, Conrad could form a shape for the story. He “used heightening and foreshortening, contrast and comparison to give the novella form;” from the opening scene, when the ancient Romans on the Thames are

contrasted with the modern Europeans in the Congo (Karl 789). Marlow’s calm setting on the Nellie contrasts with the alarming Congo riverboat setting. Kurtz’s two fiancees represents two different sets of values, two contradictory cultures. The jungle, as death, is in conflict with the river, as possible relief. The natives’ savagery is set off against the backdrop of the apparently civilized Europeans. The contrast reaches the two central characters as well; Kurtz’s humanitarianism contradicts his own barbarism, Marlow’s middle class sense of English justice is contrasted with the Congo reality.

It is also clear in their fluctuating love-hate relationship that pervades the story. The abundance of mechanical and metallic images suggests a sense of human waste and indicates that tough objects have gone beyond flexibility and softness in order to resist the passing of time, so humanity itself must become an object in order to survive. This strong sense of an absurd existence is best represented by the ivory itself. Ivory, the purest demonstration of the color white, stands in stark juxtaposition to the darkness of the jungle.

It draws the white men to Africa then turns their minds from building commerce and civilization, to exploitation and madness. Wherever ivory is present, white men plunder, kill, and turn on each other. Conrad uses symbolism to suggest meanings rather than spelling them out directly. The technicalities of his style include a frequent use of alliteration, a reliance on adjectives which emphasize the unfamiliar aspects of Marlow’s experience. Words like “inscrutable,” “inconceivable,” “unspeakable” that describe the oppressive mysteriousness of the Congo are recurrent throughout the novel.

The same vocabulary is used to evoke the human depths and the unspeakable potentialities of the man’s soul and to magnify the sense of spiritual horrors (Leavis 246-7). The words and adjectives Conrad applies “beat upon us, creating drum-like rhythms, entirely appropriate to the thick texture of the jungle” (Karl 789). The darkness of the jungle goes hand in hand with darkness everywhere, alluding at “the blackness of Conrad’s humor, the despair of his irony” (Karl 789).

It is the nightmare’s color: the darkness surrounding Kurtz’s death, his last words, the report by the manager’s boy, the delirious escape from the jungle, the encounter with Kurtz’s fiancee; all such incidents constitute the elements of a nightmarish dream. Even the Russian follower of Kurtz who is dressed in motley seems as a figure from another world. In his ridiculous appearance, he is a perfect symbol of Marlow’s Congo experience (Karl 788-9). In this passage, F. R.

Leavis argues that Conrad makes almost every aspect of his novel contribute to its overwhelming impression, one of a strangely insane world and a nightmarish existence: [? ] in terms of things seen and incidents experienced by a main agent in the narrative, and particular contacts and exchanges with other human agents, the overwhelming sinister and fantastic ? atmosphere’ is engendered. Ordinary greed, stupidity, and moral squalor are made to look like behaviour in a lunatic asylum against the vast and oppressive mystery of the surroundings, rendered potently in terms of sensation.

This means lunacy, which we are made to feel as at the same time normal and insane, is brought out by contrast with the fantastically secure innocence of the young harlequin-costumed Russian [? ] (246) Using his renowned artistic and literary craftsmanship, Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness that has become, since its publication in 1899, one of the most widely read books written in English. It has also been one of the most analyzed: scores of literary critics, ranging from feminists to Marxists to New Critics, have all tried to construct their own meanings from the pages of the book.

The novel does seem to invite a wide variety of interpretations. Looking at it through the lenses of psychoanalytic theories, Heart of Darkness has proven to be a “masterpiece of concealment” and a metaphor for the theory of the unconscious as a repository of all irrational and repressed wishes. (Karl 788). The journey into the heart of the continent can also be seen as Marlow’s own journey of individuation, self-discovery and self-enlightenment. Bibiography Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. ” A Practical Reader in Contemporary Literary Theory.

London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996. 262-4 Conrad, Joseph. Heart Of Darkness. Beirut: Librairie Du Liban Publishers SAL, 1994. Guerin, Wilfred L. , et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Hewitt, Douglas. “Conrad: A Reassessment. ” World Literature Criticism. Ed. Polly Vedder. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 789-92. Hughs, Richard E. The Lively Image: Four Myths in Literature. Cambridge, MA: Winthrop Publishers, 1975. Karl, Frederick R. “A Reader’s Guide To Joseph Conrad. ” World Literature Criticism. Ed. Polly Vedder. Vol.

4. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 785-9. Leavis, F. R. “From The Great Tradition. ” A Practical Reader in Contemporary Literary Theory. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996. 246-7 Mudrick, Marvin. “The Originality of Conrad. ” World Literature Criticism. Ed. PollyVedder. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 782-5. Murfin, Ross C. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf, 1979. Wright, Elizabeth. “Psychoanalytic Criticism. ” Encyclopedia Of Literature And Criticism. 1991 ed. 765-7.

Aspects of Human Nature in “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness encompasses many themes and concepts dealing with the very nature of humanity and its complexity. This novel is set up in two different locations, the Thames River and the Congo River. Conrad uses these two rivers to represent the different cultures that clash in this novel, which are the “civilized” and the “savages”. While exploring these two different worlds Conrad exposes the human nature at its core through the characters in this novel proving that not everything is straightforward and is at it seems.

The Thames River located in Southern England represents the advanced European world.

In this novel the Europeans regarded themselves as civilized and cultured. On the other hand, Conrad embeds numerous dark intense imageries to describe this “enlightened” culture such as violent, death, brooding gloom, and more. While the Congo River represents the uncivilized native inhabitants that are described as “utter savagery” (Conrad, 1990, p. 4), but the nature that surrounds the Congo is described as mysterious, glittering, and precious.

The contrast of these locations and representations reveals different aspects of human nature. One un-admirable quality of human nature that is shown is pride.

The European characters in this novel had the mentality that they were superior to the natives. Because of their superior status they felt that European Imperialism and the stations set up were meant for “humanizing, improving, instructing” (Conrad, 1990, p. 29) the uncivilized savages. Instead these civilized European men “Christianizing” and trying to conform the natives to their standards they have succumb to the darkness within the jungle displaying their true nature. Another aspect of human nature shown by the ironic descriptions of the “civilized” and “uncivilized” locations is man’s destructive nature.

There were numerous events in this novel that portrayed man’s destructive nature due to ulterior motives. An example that destructive behaviors are apart of human nature is when Kurtz raids countless tribes for ivory for the very purpose of gaining wealth and power. Another example of man’s destructive nature is when numbers of “pilgrims used to turn out in a body [hippopotamus] and empty every rifle they could lay hands on at him. Some even had sat up o’nights for him. ” (Conrad, 1990, p. 25). These men waited for and wasted shots just to kill an old and innocent creature not for survival purposes, but for amusement.

Conrad enforces the concept of mans destructive nature in the beginning of the novel when he is describing the “civilized” world. An example on page one Conrad describes the scenery of this “superior” civilization as “The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless… ” Later on in the novel Marlow reads Kurtz pamphlet and is led to believe that Kurtz is not another greedy, self – serving, and power crazed individual like the many characters he has met up with on his journey, but that Kurtz shares the same beliefs that he does.

Marlow’s belief that the purpose of European Imperialism in Africa was to improve the culture and to benefit them equally rather than cause chaos for their own personal gain. Marlow’s excitement to meet Kurtz based off his pamphlet and how well everyone speaks of him is an example of how not everything is straightforward. Kurtz wrote his pamphlet in a way that intrigued Marlow and convinced him that they shared the same beliefs, but when Marlow finally met Kurtz he realized that Kurtz is ill physically and mentally. Trickery and inconsistency is embedded within human nature.

As much as one would like to believe that humans are consistent and honest, that is not true and apparent in this novel. The main character is not exempt from human tendencies of inconsistency. Earlier on in the novel Marlow states, “I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie,” (Conrad, 1990, p. 23). On the other hand at the end of the book he lies to Kurt’s intended to give her sense of peace and saves her from more pain and grief. Though his reasoning is not selfish he still went against his own beliefs and proves inconsistency.

Throughout this entire novel Conrad introduces several European characters that portrayed so many non – admirable qualities such as greed, arrogance, envy, vengeance, sloth, and much more. Yet they are considered the “civilized” ones. Ironically the cannibals and the other natives in this novel show more admirable qualities such as loyalty, hard work, obedient, strong will, and most importantly restraint. While the civilized men were plotting against one another thinking only of themselves the natives displayed much more honorable character. For example, the native tribes that pledged their loyalty to Kurtz were obedient and remained loyal.

They would accompany him on expeditions and kill on his command. Another example of honorable qualities portrayed by these “uncivilized savages” was restraint. The cannibals that assisted Marlow on his journey had been starving for months and never made a move to attack their fellow crew- members. These “heathens” displayed true character in this situation because “It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonor, and the perdition of one’s soul – than this prolonged hunger … no earthly reason for any kind of scruple.

Restraint! … the fact facing me – the dazzling fact. ” (Conrad, 1990, p. 38). Through the novel “Heart of Darkness” Conrad portrays and exposes human nature at its best and at its worst. Conrad embeds irony throughout the entire novel to show that not everything is as it seems and that when involving humans there are contradictions. The main point that Conrad is conveying to his reader is that technological advances do not make a culture superior or civilized, but rather the moral code that they live by. There is not one culture superior to the other.

Also that each human being is responsible for their own civil or savage behaviors. What makes one civilized is based off of what they do when no one else is around and how they react to any given situation good or terrible. This novel served as a warning from Conrad of man’s true darkness and the “human secrets that baffle probability”. (Conrad, 1990, p. 37). One is not civilized based on where they grew up, but their reactions to the world they live in. To be civilized is to act with morality, but to be a savage is to embrace the heart of darkness.