Heart of Darkness
Marlow in “Heart of Darkness” Essay
Heart of Darkness is a novel published in the wake of the twentieth century (1902). It was authored by Joseph Conrad and Charlie Marlow is the main character. The novel is regarded as one of the most important examples of the use of symbolism in modern literature. Its structure is that of a frame tale where a story is told within a story.
Marlow, according to the story, was the captain of a ferry-boat in Cong-an African country. The title of the novel carries with it great meaning. It covers the various types of darkness experienced by the main character. First, there is the literal sense which is the darkness of the wilderness in the country.
Marlow says, “God-forsaken wilderness” in reference to the African continent (Conrad73). Secondly, the darkness brought about by Europeans who treated the natives with a lot of cruelty-colonization. The third level of darkness that comes out from the novel is that of the tendency of every human being to be evil.
The essay discusses what the character Marlow discovered about European presence in Africa as well as what he realized about the potential of human nature. It also focuses on Marlow’s inner being on the journey.
Being the main character, the entire story centers on Marlow, and many literary analysts argue that he reflects the feelings, opinions and the experiences of Conrad, the author. Marlow sees a similarity between the experiences of Britain under the rule of the Ancient Roman Empire and its officials.
The way the Romans perceived the Europeans is the same way the Europeans were regarding the African natives in the 19th century. He is annoyed by the cruelty of the Europeans towards Africans. The natives were facing poor treatment and were experiencing forced labor from the whites. Marlow appears to be a man of immense pride and civilization with some sense of compassion. He also emerges to hold very unique values from the rest of his European counterparts, the Belgians.
In general, Marlow’s narration emphasizes the fact that there was a trail of darkness for Europeans and they ought not to have colonized the Africans with such cruelty (Conrad 76). Marlow also discovers that the whites were acting contrary to what they claimed to be in the various reports. Instead of bringing civilization to Africa, in Marlow’s opinion, they had turned into oppressors.
Marlow learnt a great deal about the potential of human nature. In his opinion, human nature can either be human or humane. Being human implies acting like a primate, having a mind and to be living. To show compassion, be tender, loving, have a kind heart and considerate is to be humane.
Marlow learnt during his encounters in Africa that one does not affect or influence the other. They two totally separate qualities of human nature. He discovered that human beings can lack the humane nature when dealing with each other. He saw the Europeans maltreating the Africans as though they were slaves.
Marlow says, “I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking.” (Conrad 81).
This observation made him conclude that human beings are potentially evil, even more than the devil himself. But he believes the evil nature can be overcome when he says, “even apart from the very natural aversion I had to beat that shadow.” (Conrad 142).
As Marlow went on in his journey he discovered his own inner being that made him distinct from the rest of Europeans. As he reflected on the Congo River and his life, the desire to find the truth and face reality grew. He acknowledges that the potential of man to act inhumanly towards fellow man was one of the greatest sins. Marlow noted that man can choose to be humane and should be seen in action rather than mere words (Conrad 51).
The essay has discussed what Marlow discovered about European presence in Africa as well as what he realized about the potential of human nature. It also focused on Marlow’s realization of his own inner being during the journey through the jungle in Congo. The novel, through Marlow, provides a vivid picture of how the Europeans treated the natives during the colonization period.
Heart of Darkness and the Ceremony Compare and Contrast Essay
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad are two creative works of art, written in very different contexts but with a similar aim of reconciling collective beliefs to individual beliefs.
Their styles, the use of characters and writing techniques are different, but they both aim at bringing harmony to the apparently complex plots. They successfully do so as they take analogies of undertaking a journey, from the beginning, the rise of conflict and in finding a resolution.
Personal Experiences of Marlow and Tayo in the Heart of Darkness and Ceremony Respectively
In both novels, the writers use fiction in an attempt to bring their own personal experience to paper. The key concern in both has to do with bridging between traditional values and the ideals of modernism. Conrad, when he was serving as a steamboat commander in Congo, was open to brutality of Western world.
He relates his own experience to his main character, a protagonist in relation to the antagonist characters like Kurtz or the general manager. Leslie Marmon Silko uses her personal experience as a Native American in the Ceremony.
The Native American culture is passed on through a profoundly communal process of storytelling from Tayo’s grandmother, who on sensing the hopelessness in her grandchild, invites the medicine man, Ku’oosh to perform a traditional ritual on him.
For reconciliation to occur Tayo has to make difficult choices. He heads to the mountain in search of his Uncle Josiah’s lost cattle, which symbolize a new way of life.
During this journey he meets Ts’eh Montano, a woman his spirit is rejuvenated as she who begins to teach him Native American old traditions. Silko bases her work on traditional Native American stories, using narrative techniques that emphasize Tayo’s individual belief in relation to their communal aspects.
In both stories, the protagonists are in a journey (Silko, 87). Marlow in Heart of Darkness explores the uncharted journey to Congo, Africa. Poignantly, in Congo, he realizes that, the uncivilized Natives, perhaps, have more common sense than the Europeans who came to enlighten them.
It is only when he understands the need for balancing moderation between assimilation of western ideologies, and native beliefs that a resolution is reached.
The Departure, Initiation, Return stages Illustrated in the Two Novels
Tayo in the Ceremony attempts to reconcile his people’s traditions healing ceremonies to cure the new modern illnesses. This is evidenced by a traumatized Native American, from the Laguna Pueblo because of his unstable upbringing and experiences during World War
II. Further the trauma, is surged because of brawls insinuated by his childhood pals; Leroy, Harley, Emo and Pinkie, who also participated in the war, hence, leading to self-medicating. This situation gives them a temporal solution. On the contrary, Marlow puts himself in the position of an observer who sees the brutality of the white colonialist towards the natives.
Tayo, who participates in the ceremony and has to undergo his people’s ritual to redeem them either from the drought or from the oppression. This is evident with characters acting as the protagonist in both novels to contrast their own beliefs and the reality.
In the Heart of Darkness, Conrad embraces Marlow, whose preliminary objective is to locate Kurtz, who feels they have a common passion for the wilderness (89). As the story proceeds, it is ostensible that Kurtz is frenzied in this wilderness, which hints to his own end.
The general manager, although he has great devotion to the natives but in real sense concerned more about his own success. The brick maker cannot make the bricks because he supposedly has no material. Overall, Kurtz symbolizes how Europeans when they began to realize their harm to Africa. Kurtz relationship with the mistress the passion for Africa by whites which is only temporary.
His terminal illness is a representation of the eventual death of imperialism as they are unable to adapt or respect the existing African culture (Conrad, 90).
In the end, Marlow tells kurtz intended that his last words were her name this is symbolic of the imperialist noble act to explore and try to do good in her honor and to African continent respectively. Unlike in ceremony Tayo’s friends are in admiration of the oppressive white society for giving them the opportunity to fight in the war.
In the Ceremony, the protagonist is continually saddened, by how his childhood friends Harley, Leroy, Emo, and Pinkie spend most of their time drinking and in reminiscing about how much they felt respected in their soldier uniforms great during the war. For Tayo, this is an indication of negative bias the Native Americans experiences by the whites, whom, paradoxically they seem to esteem.
As Tayo’s journey unfolds, we are met with the story of an individual, which interweaves that of his entire community. The Native Americans culture and beliefs are portrayed as wonderful and worthy assimilating and be adopt in a white society.
The “Master of the Two Worlds”
Silko (74) illustrate that Tayo feels nausea, and vomits before Ku’oosh leaves in the ceremony, and Ku’oosh recognizes that he has no powers to cure him. The healing cannot happen because, “Some phenomenon cannot be cured like we used to since the white people came”(109).
In The Heart of Darkness, the inherent succeeds to endure the repetitive efforts of initial white subjugators, to rescind their traditional way of life, they become stronger in sustaining the conditions that loom their values, unlike before. In both novels, the protagonist, have to be removed from a state of comfort and undergo through continuous opposing forces to reach a resolution.
The plot is carefully developed by Silko such that in Tayo embarking on a journey full of personal ceremonies to bridge Native American traditions and those of the westerners. Conversely, Conrad embraces Marlow as an arbitrator between the two extreme of Kurtz and the Company
This moderation as the protagonist allows the reader to identify with him. In the end, the writer resolution is effective in reconciling Marlow, uncorrupt white who is open minded and sensitive and does not become indoctrinated to the materialistic ideals of the imperialists.
Kutz’s last words, “horror ,horror” show that his struggle between his evil tendencies and his conscience as expressed by Marlow to his intended who is a symbol of good is unable to corrupt that by rendering kurtz’ words. Oddly, it is through death that Kurtz turns to the world he had been so isolated.
However, through this isolation, he seeks Marlow for the preservation of his legacy. Both Marlow and Tayo’s disillusionment begin very early. Marlow’s disillusionment starts when he arrives on the shores of Africa (Conrad, 9). What he had expected he does not get, the atmosphere and the people has changed.
The black people he had once viewed as savages seem to make more sense that the supposed civilized white people. Tayo’s has to experience separation just like Marlow; he has to leave the very circumstance of his experiences and upbringing.
His words are formed with invisible tongue as the army physician tells him; the continued drought situation and other challenges create the need to find a solution. The climax is where the ceremony with Betonie cannot be completed.
He has to go to the mountain where he meets Ts’eh Montano, the spirit woman who he is aware at last that she has always loved him and his people. Tayo bridges the distance between the collective beliefs of his people and his own isolated consciousness because he has loved the Spirit Woman who brings all things into being.
Tayo challenges the American ideal of bravery to include an emotional awakening, “He cried finally seeing the pattern, the way all the stories fit together-the old stories, the war stories, and their stories to become the story that was still being told” (Silko, 246).
When he returns from the mountain even His own grandmother admits that that he is no longer special but has been integrated into the of Laguna way of life. She comments: “these happenings do not excite me anymore “(Silko, 260). Perhaps she is also implying the successful merging of the two worlds.
In both novels, the writers have been successful in their use of creative writing in a build- up of conflict to achieve very conclusive resolutions. Their differences in character and style of writing can be the ultimate achievement in reconciling the conflict of different worlds into one.
Conrad Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Oxford: Bibliolis Books, 2010
Silko Marmon Leslie. Ceremony. New York: New American Library, 1978
Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ and Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Heart of Darkness’. Theme Analysis Critical Essay
The themes in the two novels; Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ and Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Heart of Darkness’ are influenced by some existentialist thoughts and beliefs. According to Kafka and Jarvis (9), existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the need for one to understand that destiny can only be chosen rather than predetermined.
Here, existentialism means that every individual should be able to decide for oneself on the basis of the greatest truths, which cannot be determined by others. Additionally, existentialism encourages self-sufficiency or independence and momentary existence among individuals by stating that the only moral thing is that which exists and becomes useful at the present moment (Kafka and Jarvis 12).
On the other hand, the philosophy of existentialism posits that a stark or self-determined individual may experience anxiety, and as a result, one may resort to isolation and despair (Kafka and Jarvis 14). Therefore, this essay reviews the theme of colonization or limitation of one’s existentialist ideas as depicted in ‘The Metamorphosis’ and ‘The Heart of Darkness’.
Here, the essay compares how the theme of colonization is captured in the novels, and goes ahead to explain the techniques employed by each author in conveying the theme. Furthermore, the essay addresses the use of imagery, language, structure, and characterization by each author. Overall, colonization is portrayed as a destructive force that alienates individuals from their existentialist ideas and beliefs.
Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ depicts colonization as a form of estrangement that forces man to separate himself from other humans by working under dehumanizing circumstances. In his work, Kafka uses a character known as Gregor Samsa who at a relatively young age finds responsibility in supporting his family, and thus, he is unable to work his way out of the situation.
Furthermore, Gregor is forced out of a love life, which according to Kafka (9), would have given him the opportunity to experience intimacy by coming closer to a fellow human being or alleviate his loneliness by fathering children of his own.
As a result, Gregor resorts to selling textiles in order to meet the expectations of his family. His lifestyle is marked by loneliness since he has to move from one hotel room to another, and when he returns to his home, he spends much of his time locked up in his bedroom (Kafka 23).
According to the author, Gregor claims that he developed the lonely and isolated lifestyle from the numerous trips he made while selling textiles. However, it is obvious to readers that Gregor prefers isolation in order to avoid the wrath of his nagging family members. Furthermore, the author notes that Gregor’s bedroom has three doors, which are used by his family members who cannot stop urging him to wake up and get to work in order to provide for their lavish lifestyle.
On the other hand, Gregor works with a boss who likes to keep track of what he does all the time. Additionally, Gregor’s boss has hired a clerk who follows him to his home in case he fails to go to work. Considering these circumstances, Gregor resorts to transformation as the only solution to his problems.
As a result, Gregor metamorphoses into a gigantic bug to alienate himself from all the problems he faces (Kafka 35). However, little did Gregor know that his metamorphosis will push him away from his family who will come to shun him and wish that he was dead. Realizing that his family would prefer him dead, he decides to isolate himself permanently, and dies a lonely man (Kafka 80).
Subsequently, colonization or limitation of one’s self-determination and self-sufficiency is portrayed as a destructive force in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’. In this piece of work, the author uses an unknown narrator who is also an acquaintance of Charlie Marlow, the main character. The narrator talks of colonization in Congo whereby Europeans are in a mission to expand their business contacts and bring ‘light’ to the native Africans.
According to Kurtz, one of the most productive station managers in the interior of Congo, the initial approach of the Europeans was to ensure that each company station becomes the main source of better things and a center of trade while improving and humanizing the lifestyles of the natives (Conrad 4-10).
The same idea is also shared by the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, an organization that believes in the civilization of the natives inhabiting Congo. Moreover, other characters such as Marlow’s aunt believe that Europeans including Marlow have the potential to liberate millions and millions of ignorant natives from their unpleasant ideas and beliefs.
However, some Europeans such as Marlow note that colonization is not a pretty thing to do if one had to look at it more deeply. Marlow takes note of the reality of colonization upon observing physically exhausted individuals working under dehumanizing conditions, co-workers who can get away with almost anything in order to please their bosses, earn additional profits and gain recognition, and colonized people who are literally shackled to generate more profit (Conrad 33).
On the other hand, despite Kurtz having a different approach toward the civilization of the natives, he resorts to practicing a different form of colonization in which he ensures that the natives literally worship him.
Kurtz’s approach enables him to bring in more ivory and thus gain the recognition of his superiors. Furthermore, Marlow observes the greatest form of savagery when he visits Kurtz’s office whereby heads of the rebels are placed atop poles to suppress future rebellion from the natives (Conrad 56).
From the foregoing discussions, it is certain that colonization may benefit the colonizers in different ways but it can bring hardships, deaths, and sufferings to the colonized people. The two novels describe both the mythical image and the apparent character of the colonized people and their colonizers.
In the two novels, the colonizer is depicted as someone who claims to have certain privileges upon the suppressed and colonized people. Furthermore, the colonizer feels that there is the need to justify his or her privileges by creating a myth that makes him more superior or in much need than the colonized.
Accordingly, Gregor’s family members and his boss on one hand and the Europeans on the other hand are depicted as virtuous and civilized individuals who assume higher capabilities and positions that make them worthy of their contemptible characters. By preferring to ignore the presence of the colonizer, the colonized people would certainly not forget that the colonizer holds his present position unfairly. Therefore, as the colonized rebel, the colonizer becomes increasingly zealous in holding on to his position.
On the other hand, the oppressive character of the colonizer ends the history and the future of the colonized people since they are made to follow the ways dictated by the colonizer. In Conrad’s work, ‘The Metamorphosis’, we note that Gregor’s family members including his boss impose certain constrictions in his life, and thus they force him to forego or ignore certain values of his life. The same also applies to the natives in the interior of Congo who are forced to forego their culture and let the Europeans determine their future.
As a result, with their inability to change the present situation, the colonized retire to a frozen state, and allow their history and future to atrophy. Overall, by allowing the colonizers to determine their future, the colonized loose their freedom, self-determination, and self-sufficiency; the qualities much needed in order for an individual to see the truth and overcome the fear of the unknown.
The essay reviews the theme of colonization as depicted in the two novels, ‘The Metamorphosis’ and the ‘Heart of Darkness’ by comparing how the two authors support the theme in their respective pieces of work, and their use of language, structure, characterization, and imagery to convey the message.
From the discussions above, it is worth noting that the two authors present their characters under different circumstances but achieve to show that colonizers and the colonized appear in different cultures and circumstances. Further, the foregoing discussions show that the two cultures described in the two novels share certain attributes. Here, it is certain that the existentialist ideas hold in that readers can note that the universe is indifferent and very hostile to humankind.
Furthermore, no human being is able to explain his or her existence, and thus, life is approached from different angles relative to individual experience. On the other hand, we note that isolation, despair, and anxiety form an integral part of life. Finally, the truth is purely determined by one’s own conventions rather than external forces. However, the freedom of choice enjoyed by each individual predisposes one to the consequences of his or her actions.
Overall, reading diverse literature and getting to discover mankind’s commonalities enables one to uncover a wide range of premises upon which different literally works are written. Additionally, this experience allows one to take note of the fact that different literally works are based on real-life events and activities, which affect mankind in different ways and under different circumstances. However, these problems do also share common solutions.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of darkness. New York: Plain Label Books, 1975. Print.
Kafka, Franz. The metamorphosis: literary touchstone. Clayton, Delaware: Prestwick House Inc, 2005. Print.
Kafka, Franz, and Jarvis, Martin. Metamorphosis. New York: Lulu.com, 2008. Print.
Joseph Conrad: The Heart of Darkness Essay
Plot, theme, setting, characters, symbolism and point of view are the fundamental components that comprise most literary genres. Characters, plot, setting, and dialogue aid in moving the story along. One, two, or all of these mechanisms combined explains the fundamental premise or theme of the work.
Symbolism is a conglomeration of symbols used to explain and/or embody an idea. This idea is usually the theme of the work – in essence the author’s particular commentary on something. Its vital role lies in its dual nature/purpose – it links all the components under the surface to the external action which in turn helps explain the theme.
Through allegory, metaphors, etc. the symbols represent something in addition to its literal connotation. An excellent example of symbolism and its correlation to theme is Joseph Conrad’s thought provoking novella, The Heart of Darkness – an expose on human savagery via imperialism. A part of the Western Canon, the novella was published in1902. Since the dawn of time, human nature has without a doubt exuded a persistent vein of unwarranted violence and cruelty.
The array of violence permeating the earth has been and is committed by those in high places and amongst average/ everyday people. Compound with such violence is the menacing ethos of one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. Human savagery is equally as much a weapon of mass destruction. Literature, as does all aspects of society, examines this unsavory element in human nature.
Revered as one of the greatest English novelist of all times and a cornerstone to modernist literature, Joseph Conrad was a native of Poland. His distinct contribution was the development of a unique prose style with a non-English sense of tragedy.
The backdrop for most of his literary cadre was maritime or seaboard settings. Such settings allude to the autobiographical nature of his work – Conrad had been a member of the French and British Merchant Navy. The thematic core of his writings examined the trials and tribulations of the human spirit/soul in relation to duty and honor as well as the pervading affects of world empires.
Most importantly, such inner schisms are reflective of the novelist’s fight with his own emotional demons (depression, pessimism, self-doubt, etc.). Despite such emotional upheaval and excavation of the human soul, Conrad had an unwavering sense of moral judgment and justice as evidenced in The Heart of Darkness. Aforementioned, The Heart of Darkness explores the dehumanizing affects of imperialism – in this particular instance the horrific European colonization of the Belgian Congo.
The novella depicts a sojourn in the life Englishman Charles Marlow (Conrad’s alter ego). A narrative within a narrative, Marlowe recounts his physical and mental experience as a Captain on Congo steamship.
A myriad of symbolisms exist in the novella. The deepest and second largest river in the world, the Congo or Zaire River has been used as an allegoric symbol by many literary greats (Edgar Allen Poe, Langston Hughes, Vaschal Lindsay). In The Heart of Darkness, the river symbolizes Marlowe’s search for his soul or journey into his inner spirit. This journey can yield one’s true self identity, but often is not a pleasant experience.
Quest for self identity is an integral part of the human evolvement process which is indelible and universal. Sometimes such soul searching can be dark/cloudy/ muddy experience as inferred by the dark and wilderness nature of the River. Marlowe’s description of the river renders such interpretation as true.
“In and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened with slime, invaded the contorted mangroves that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair. Nowhere did we stop long enough to get a particularlised impression, but the general sense ofvague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was like a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares (Conrad).”
The river opens Marlowe’s eye to the cataclysmic evil man is capable of rendering. The further he travels the more the layers of his soul are shed.
The elephant is the largest of land animals on earth. With a life span of 50 to 70 years, they can weigh up 26,000 pounds and measure in height over six yards. They are known for their exceptional memory as well as wisdom/intelligence and considered an exotic emblem. Elephants represent mammoth power and strength – like imperialism. Indicative of colonization is the pillaging of resources and objects viewed as sacred. Ivory is the external dentition or upper incisors of an elephant.
Profoundly amazing, countless numbers of elephants have been slaughtered for these simple protruding ordinary upper teeth. Acquiring a symbol of wealth and lavishness was and is the impetus for such slaughter. Ivory is a major commodity in this novella characterizing greed and destructiveness to the point that humanness, morality, and civility is subjugated as referenced by Marlowe’s following observations.
“The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life.
And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion…….Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; … and in return came a precious trickle of ivory(Conrad).”
Ivory has become an idol, deified like a God, and acquiring at the expense of others no matter what the cost.
Light and dark, good and evil, black and white – a great deal has been attached to these words when it comes to justifying the subjugation of a people. Black, dark, and evil are synonymous attributing the traits of ignorance, death, negativity where as white, light, and good of course epitomize innocence, life, purity, or enlightenment.
Suppose these categories represented in essence the reverse – where innocence, good etc. was applied to black, etc. and evil and ignorance to white? Kurtz‘s Woman With the Torch, which hangs at the Central Station, paintings seems to infer this premise.
The painting depicts a blindfolded woman standing against a black background with a lighted torch. Women have always been idealized from the standpoint of purity and innocence with such attributes bringing solace to a gloomy world. Marlowe’s views support this premise.
“It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living with consistently every since the day of creation would start up and knock the first thing over (Conrad).”
The woman in the painting personifies this image – to point of being unreal. Her flaw however, is that she is rendered blind via being blindfolded. What is she blind to? It has been suggested that the woman symbolizes a blind/uncivilized Europe coming to impose their domination/values/way of life (the torch) over the African Continent and its peoples.
History espouses that African and many other ancient countries (China, etc.) were in existence long before Europe. With these civilizations far more advanced how is it possible that they needed to be civilized? The painting depicts how arrogance and ignorance fuels imperialism and lays the foundation for a false sense of power.
Most importantly, as indicated by the blind fold, its blinds one from these ignoble traits and as well the perpetrated injustices. He seems to imply that it is not about color that deems one evil, good or bad, but rather what is in their hearts. In the end Marlowe finds truth in the darkness that had been covered up by white falsehood.
“True, by this time it was not a blank space any more…a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river… resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land…the snake had charmed me (Conrad).”
Other significant images are the heads on sticks and the flies. The former represents barbaric nature of the so called civilized colonizer. By the time Marlowe comes in contact with this barbarianism, he has already seen a great deal. His only way to deal with the horror is via humor as he regards it as “no big deal (Conrad).” Death and decay has always been associated with flies as Satan who other name is Lord of the Flies
Via symbolism, the darkness as indicated by the title has a threefold nature with the colonization and the Congo wilderness representative of two. All of the negative connotations attributed to Africa as the Dark Continent and the people are vividly depicted. An intrinsic component of imperialism/colonization is culture clash – a clash between the colonized (Congolese) and the colonizer (British).
This clash is ubiquitous in The Heart of Darkness as well the role of individual conscience and duty/image. Marlow embodies the industrialized/ imperialistic West with its trappings of technological excellence, civic administration, and insatiable need to civilize the so called savages – the uncivilized.
The evilness of the colonizer spirit is embodied in Kurtz’s character, the enigmatic and rogue ivory collector. In this invincible clash – a mental quagmire throughout the novella – the reader witnesses Marlowe’s personal ethos at odds with his institutional persona as the novella progresses.
He becomes very sensitive to human suffering and savagery and learns the ultimate consequence of imperialism – destruction and evil. It subjugates all of humanity as Marlowe comes to realize. Following the expectations of others is not always good and being trapped to point that ones principles are compromised propels one into a hellish state. It is the worst kind of authoritative/imperialistic control.
The Heart of Darkness appears to be the vehicle Joseph Conrad uses to show disdain or utter contempt for imperialism. The acceptance/normalcy of inhumane acts and the manner in which they are carried out manifest how humans can be monsters. The Heart of Darkness is thought provocative and tragically relative today just as it was when published.
It serves as Joseph Conrad’s plea for the sanctity of humanity and the human experience on earth. Contributing to Conrad’s outstanding literary legacy, The Heart of Darkness transcends time and place as well as culture and will forever leave an indelible influence/impact on Western Literature.
Conrad, Joseph (1998-01-05). Heart of Darkness & Other Stories. Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Heart of Darkness – Analysis of Marlow’s Lie Essay
The text Heart of Darkness looks into what embodies a lie by giving the accounts of Charles Marlow an Englishman working as a ferryboat captain in Africa soon after the death of Kurtz. Marlow’s experiences both in Africa and Europe may have shaped him and led him to lie to Kurtz’s intended.
Marlow’s experiences are pegged on evils of the human condition in these two regions especially Kurtz’s expedition to what he called the “heart of darkness” along the banks of the snake-like river Congo (Conrad, 19). All this reactions are divided into two; common inconsequential misdemeanors and trifling lies and the larger evils which in most cases are attributed to madmen (Conrad, 150; Milne, 88).
The big question here is why did Marlow lie to Kurtz’s intended, was it the right thing to do to lie or not and why? Marlow on recounting to Kurtz’s intended about her lover’s death lies to her about Kurtz’s last words. As a replacement for Kurtz’s last words “The Horror, The Horror” he lies about Kurtz’s last words. He claims that he called out to her and mentioned her name (Conrad, 50). So why does he lie or what is Conrad trying to portray here?
The circumstances and world Marlow lives in, is one that paints a picture of Europeans males as men able to chase after their every impulse (acquiring fame, women and wealth-embodied in Kurtz) (Conrad, 46). To understand the reason for the lie, first we must understand there were two images of Kurtz being portrayed. One was what Marlow, Kurtz’s intended and other people idolized; and the other was what Marlow found out (Ellis, 96).
All through his journeys, Marlow saw Kurtz as a ‘hero’ and admired him but on meeting him and getting to see for himself the real Kurtz and such things as dried heads on stakes facing his station, his view of Kurtz changed. This can be said to be one of the influences over Marlow that led to his lie.
The meeting between the two made Marlow realize that Kurtz was not an ideal person and did not have good principles too. Another more profound influence over Marlow was his perception of women (Conrad, 50). Does he lie to protect Kurtz’s intended’s feelings or is his lie fostered by other reasons?
Marlow sees women as holding less importance in the society. Both Marlow and Kurtz see the intended as the epitome of the naiveté of women. She holds a huge significance in Conrad’s portrayal of importance on women in the text. Her depiction paints women as naïve, idealistic and deeply devoted to the males in their lives, as seen by the intended towards Kurtz. A further indication of this is her being referred to as the intended and depicted as a possession belonging to Kurtz that remains unnamed (Conrad, 22).
This shows very little value is accorded to her by Conrad through Kurtz and Marlow. Marlow only recognizes and praises her beauty when he meets her but that is as far as he goes in acknowledging her. He tells her of how any man would be proud to have her as his wife, that her “beauty is a trophy and to a man’s eye her only redeeming quality” (Ellis, 6).
Nevertheless, Marlow’s perception of the intended is not how he sees her alone but all the women he encounters in his journeys. To Marlow, all the women he encounters are “unintelligent, uninformed and unimportant” (Conrad, 83). Marlow goes ahead to even ridicule their innocence and says that “its queer how out of touch with the truth women are” (Conrad, 34).
This may form the background of Marlow’s lie and try to explain why he lied to Kurtz’s intended. Conrad paints a picture whereby women’ unawareness with the goings on around them and which remains constant subject matter to base the female characters all through text “especially the Intended whose naiveté makes her a caricature of women of the time” (Boyle, 64). Marlow describes Kurtz’s painting of the Intended in which she is blindfolded holding a torch.
The painting reinforces how blind to the truth about Kurtz and about Imperialism she is, and how she is confined by her white European view of society. Through the eyes of the male narratives, the Intended is an embodiment of oppressed female stereotypes and reflects the misogyny of their societies. The Intended is valued only as a collected object and not as an autonomous being (Boyle, 64).
Marlow is not alone in his perception of women, Kurtz in one instance tells Marlow that to protect their world from getting worse; they should help women stay “in that beautiful world of their own” (Conrad, 16). This is an indication that the male protagonists and Conrad himself have strong beliefs that women are very delicate characters and such characters are too simple to grasp the conciseness of the horrors occurring in the world around them (Ellis, 196; Milne, 88).
This can be seen from the way the intended’s mind is clouded by her extreme devotion to Kurtz. She is oblivious to his actual character and her perception and devotion of him is only fed by the praise Kurtz gets in Europe. Boyle argues that “her naiveté mimics the thoughts of other white Europeans of the time and their views on Imperialism” (Conrad, 150).
According to Boyle, Europeans, like the Intended, staunchly believe in the greatness of the men who travel to Africa to bestow civilization on a savage country. This therefore warrants the lie about Kurtz to the intended. Marlow does not want to damage the reputation or image Kurtz has created in the eyes of hi intended (Milne, 1988).
As a result he protects it by lying allowing the intended to continue thinking this way about Kurtz. Ted Boyle argues extensively on the intended’s naiveté “for believing her name was really his last word -a part of Kurtz, the noblest part, the part he Intended has in fact survived the powers of darkness” (Boyle, 106). The text clearly illustrates that Marlow would rather lie to the intended about Kurtz’s false legacy than to admit to women that men also have faults.
To cover up for male weakness, Marlow and Kurtz indirectly criticize and pity the intended for her weakness, a “weakness that has not been acquired, but rather assumedly to be in possession internally as a side effect of their gender” (Conrad, 50).
There is a lack of correspondence between Kurtz and his intended therefore she is protected by Kurtz from the harsh realities and truths of the world especially the horrors of the Congo. Marlow is also in on this when he allows her to believe that Kurtz was a good man even to his death (Dahl, 68).
The intended is completely unaware of her betrothed’s true self but follows blindly what has been created by Kurtz in the pretense that he loves her. This brings forth the vulnerability of women, their original weakness and their absolute dependence on men. She and other women of the time are victims of both sexual discrimination and the entire society especially their own gender which continues to oppress them (Ellis, 19).
Kurtz succumbs to savagery but on the other side of the world, his intended is still holding to the illusion of his portrayed European self. Kurtz breaks away from social obligations and gives into an inner primitive nature abandoning his pasts to give into the darkness, but yet his intended still loves him and still remains dutifully and instinctively faithful to him (Conrad, 1950).
She claims to know Kurtz best when she meets with Marlow. She tells Marlow that if she had been at his bedside she would have treasured every sigh, world and glance, while Marlow listens with bated breath wishing he could scream to her the irony of her words (Conrad, 112).
Marlow wants to tell her of the darkness that overtook Kurtz, but because he has been conditioned to consider women inferior and incapable, he holds his tongue and allows her to believe what she wishes.
This creates the setting for the lie. Kenneth Bruffee looks into Marlow’s lie to Kurtz’s intended and expresses it as “the belief that some knowledge of yourself is the only reward life offers” (Bruffee, 14). Bruffee’s understanding implies that the text itself involves a self gained knowledge by Kurtz on man’s deficiency which comes out as both rewarding and disappointing (Bruffee, 64).
Carola M. Kaplan’s article Colonizers, Cannibals, and the Horror of Good Intentions in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – Critical Essay also tries to look at what embodies a lie. Kaplan argues that man has the ability to embody truth but is not aware of this. According to Kaplan, Marlow all through the text insists on being truthful and on truthful dealings. He tries to be adamant on the distinction between “truth and lies; men and women; civilization and savagery and, most of all, between self and other” (Kaplan, 97).
Kaplan states that the distinction between one’s self and others is the most important and vital aspect of society. This forms the contextual basis of the opposition that carries on the colonial endeavors in Africa. So the question comes up again, why the lie by Marlow to the intended? Marlow does not only lie to the intended but to the Europeans as a whole (Conrad, 1950). The fear and lure that hold sway over the Europeans of the other (Africans) is enough to instigate the hunt and ‘discovery’ of colonialism (Kaplan, 97).
To rationalize this aspect of colonialism, the other (Africans) is portrayed as inferior to Europeans. Nevertheless, Marlow’s persistence on the distinction he thinks as right is to no avail; as the colonists emerge victors (Kaplan, 97). Kaplan states that “the gang of virtue is indistinguishable from the gang of greed, the illusions of women merely echo the illusions of men, and there is no clear distinction between lies and truth” (97).
Patrick Brantlinger argues that the text Heart of Darkness presents a very authoritative and commanding analysis of imperialism and racism. Brantlinger asserts that “Chinua Achebe claimed Conrad to be a ‘bloody racist’ in a lecture he delivered titled The Images of Africa” (Brantlinger, 196).
But according to Brantlinger, the text’s very quintessence lies in the fact that it does not overlook imperialism. He states that Achebe was of the mind that Conrad through the characters of Kurtz and Marlow reduced Africa to a lowly role of being props for the disintegration of one inconsequential European mind (Kurtz’s) greatly idolized by Marlow; and that is an arrogance that is both preposterous and wicked in humans (Brantlinger, 16; (Brantlinger, 88).
Marlow hero worships Kurtz to the highest degree in the text Heart of Darkness. He attributes Kurtz’s greatness as seen in the eyes of his intended and Europeans was from a creation of all Europe.
According to Marlow, Kurtz is the “best of the best” (Conrad, 56). Marlow tries to seek the truth from his journeys and appears to find it when he comes across Kurtz. Conrad paints and illustrates Kurtz as a great man and not as the other pilgrims (Brantlinger, 1988). Kurtz was meant to be a savior, a redeemer from the imperialistic motives that drove the Europeans to Congo by trying to civilize the native inhabitants.
As the story unravels we get to see Kurtz as the “great man he is, a lover of arts, an intellectual, an artist, a lover, a philanthropist with a mission and a writer” (Brantlinger, 19). He is the embodiment of the European man according to Conrad. But along the way Kurtz embraces the heart of darkness -a phrase used by Conrad to refer to Congo- and lapses into his savage state suppressed within him (Brantlinger, 19).
Marlow’s journey into the heart of darkness opens up the meaning of this phrase. It now not only refers to the harsh realities of the Congo but to the inner beings of man. His encounters with Kurtz bring about the other side of Kurtz, one that was only known by the natives; his savage nature, not even known to his intended.
Marlow observes that Kurtz is eventually prevailed over “by the land of darkness, and returns to the very savage beginnings that Marlow observes in the natives “(Brantlinger, 96). Marlow sees Kurtz to have sunk so low and taken an elevated position among the ills of the land. He calls him hollow and says this of him:
“the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core” (Conrad, 60).
This clearly illustrates the depths Kurtz had sunk to. At the end of the text, Marlow’s lie to Kurtz’s intended does not seem to be only for her but for him as well. Despite Kurtz’s savageness that Marlow has witnessed, he still is in a kind of denial and still idolizes him (Milne, 8).
Marlow comes out as a character who despises people who lie and dislikes lies altogether but yet he demonstrates that if the circumstances are extraordinary then a lie is unavoidable (Dahl, 53). From the text Marlow can be argued to not actually telling a lie but letting those he is purported to have told the lie to continue thinking what they were thinking.
Since this is the case with Kurtz’s intended, she herself claims to Marlow that if she were with Kurtz during his last moments, the words that would have come out of her betrothed’s mouth would have been her name (Milne, 65).
Marlow does not offer any indication to change her thinking and tell her what the actual words were but lets her engross herself in her own make believe world. This helps him justify the need for the lie. In the text Heart of Darkness, Marlow cuts himself short and says “you know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie, there is taint of death, and a flavor of mortality in lies” (Conrad, 87).
To understand why Marlow was forced to lie, we should understand first of all that he had no reason to hurt the intended. Marlow’s thinking was that it was better for the intended to remember her betrothed (Kurtz) as she knew him while he was still alive.
He did not see any reason to change her view as this would hurt her. Marlow is finally portrayed as a praiseworthy man for doing a kind thing to spare the intended’s feelings. As illustrated in the text Heart of Darkness, Marlow lies two times all through the text. He despises lies and says as much towards his attitude about lies but yet again he is of the idea that when faced with extraordinary circumstances, a lie is unavoidable.
Another dimension can be added to this discussion; that Marlow lied to the intended to also help himself stick to the Kurtz he knew; the great man and lover of arts, and not the savage beast he encountered. He is not ready to accept the change in Kurtz and says that all Europe contributed in turning Kurtz to the savage that he is.
Boyle, Tedd. Marlow’s Lie. Studies in Short Fiction, 1, 115-160. 1964.
Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism. Ithaca: Cornell UP. 1988. Print
Brantlinger, Patrick Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism? Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism: Heart of Darkness. New York: Bedford Books. 1996. Print
Bruffee, Kenneth. The Lesser Nightmare: Marlow’s Lie in the Heart of Darkness. Modern Language Quarterly, 25(3), 322. 1964.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: New American Library. 1950. Print
Conrad, Joseph. Congo Diary and Other Uncollected Pieces. New York: Doubleday & Co. 1978. Print
Dahl, James. Kurtz Marlow, Conrad and the Human Heart of Darkness. Studies in the Literary Imagination, 1968. Print
Ellis, James. “Kurtz’s Voice: The Intended as `The Horror”. English Literature in Transition, 19,105-10. 1976. Print
Kaplan, Carola. Colonizers, Cannibals, and the Horror of Good Intentions in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – Critical Essay. Studies in Short Fiction. 1997. Print
Milne, Fred. Marlow’s Lie and the Intended: Civilization as the lie in Heart of Darkness. The Arizona Quarterly, 1988. Print
Feminism in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now [Essay]
Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now epitomize female stereotypes. Both pieces lack progressive and unconventional women as they are meant for male audiences. They propagate the objectification and domination of women. However, Apocalypse Now– which is more recent – perpetuates these stereotypes even more than the novella.
Analysis of Feminism in Heart of Darkness
Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness at a time when women were regarded as the inferior sex. Their role was mostly domestic, and they were not considered as persons who had authority or power. These sentiments are echoed in the novel; most females are unnamed, and the few who are named rarely said much in the narrative. Indeed females are not redeemed at all in this piece of work because most are voiceless and powerless to their circumstances.
For instance, readers are introduced to two unnamed knitters. One of them speaks with so much naiveté; she imagines that the African wilderness is a comfortable environment. Marlow wonders whether the women are really of the world, and it can, therefore, be asserted that this role depicts women as disengaged from their surrounding. Even the older knitter seems to be more concerned about the knitting rather than with the visitors.
After the two knitters, readers are then introduced to Marlow’s aunt. Marlow thinks that his aunt is out of touch and believes that she will never comprehend how things in the Congo really operate. However, as one reads the novella in its entirety, one soon realizes that this was a bias that the main character of the story possessed. Marlow’s aunt had connections, and if it was not for her help, Marlow might never have gained employment.
When one critically looks at his aunt’s role in the story, one realizes that this was one of the more powerful women in the story. However, her power is linked to her connections and interactions with men (Conrad, 1.20). Therefore, Conrad is trying to tell readers that women can only be powerful if they derive that power from men. As the main character Marlow interacts with his aunt, he asserts that there is a wall between women and men’s worlds, and this wall must never be taken down (Conrad, 1.28).
Another woman in the novel is Kurtz’s mistress. She is described as superb and savage. She is voiceless, and her only power emanates from her sexual attributes. Marlow understands why Kurtz fell for her. She is a symbol of a force to reckon with, as asserted by Marlow (Conrad, 3.13).
However, one realizes that she is voiceless in the novel, which highlights the insignificance of role of women in Heart of Darkness. Her strength emanates from her physical beauty and not her intellectual or social abilities. Also, because she plays such a minor role in the story, she lacks agency and is reduced to nothing more than a creature to be seen but never to be heard.
When readers are introduced to the Intended, they can also read the same messages that emanated from the other women. Marlow sees that she is so out of it. He cannot tell her the truth about Kurtz because she is too weak and fragile to take it all in (Conrad, 2.29). She needs to be protected from these harsh realities because she had created an unrealistic expectation of Kurtz. Therefore, this character is feeble and lacks the stamina required to survive in the complex world.
Interactions between men and women in the novel are viewed as detrimental. This is seen from Kurtz’s death after he breaks the wall between men and women. He fails to keep a firm grip on the bond between brothers, and this is what leads to his demise. On the other hand, Marlow separates the world of men and women and therefore manages to stay ahead of the game. As is clear from the summary analysis, he lies to the Intended about Kurtz and thus propagates the bond between males. Marlow firmly believed that in order to make it, he needed to keep away from women.
They lived in a beautiful world, and if a man incorporated them into his world, then he faced the risk of losing control of his world as well. Therefore homosocial bonds between men are vital to the survival of men in the story. This relative lack of female agency and voice in the story illustrates that Heart of Darkness was written at a time when English society was immensely patriarchal, and the female roles in the novel were definitely intended to capture these constructs.
The Role of Women in Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now was directed and produced decades after Heart of Darkness, but its depiction of women is no less patriarchal than the novella was. This film has very few female characters in it. Most of the women are also voiceless. However, another dimension has been added to them; they appear to be objectified and sexualized in the production.
One of the reasons why there are very few women in the movie is that war is the primary subject matter. The US Army rarely allows women to get into combat, so the very nature of this movie biases women in it. Most of the roles they play in the film are bound to be trivial because the director needed to depict real-life scenarios in the Vietnam War. Nonetheless, these facts do not excuse the need to give women stronger roles in the motion picture.
The first women in the movie are playboy bunnies. They do not say anything of substance and are nothing more than sexual objects. Most of their utterances are sexual in nature without any other meaning. They make flirtatious statements and do not assert anything powerful throughout the film. What is particularly disturbing is how they are perceived and treated by the male audience they are entertaining.
Instead of treating these women like the precious beings that they are, most of these soldiers insult them. Some of them shout at the ladies and order them to take off their garments. Then as they continue with their routine, these men become even more aggressive and start chasing those women on stage. Thus, gender discrimination and misogyny in Apocalypse Now is apparent.
The entertainers were immediately evacuated by army personnel, and one gets the feeling that they would have been seriously hurt if they were not removed from that place. Therefore, as much as the soldiers are attracted to these women sexually, they still feel the need to undermine and demean them by exerting some form of verbal or physical violence upon them. These women come out as powerless and subject to male demands (Coppola, np).
Other women who show up in the movie include some native women who are perceived as savages and actually end up getting killed. They are caught up in the crossfire between the Americans and the natives in the film, and most of them are also wives who feel hurt by the fact that they have been left on their own after the devastations of the war.
Overall, the movie focuses on the need for male solidarity and the disillusionment of men when they participate in a war. They become so engrained in the war that they lose their sense of humanity, especially against the opposite sex.
Feminist Representation in Both Pieces
The theme of feminism in both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now has to be analyzed in order to compare the pieces. Objectification and oversexualization of women are heavily prevalent in Apocalypse Now, mainly because the movie became quite graphic at some point (Coppola, np). Sexual objectification in feminist understanding is defined as the practice of treating and viewing other persons as instruments of sexual pleasure.
In this regard, that person is treated as an object to be used and not as an entity with a personality and intellect. Objectification in this regard can be done at an individual level as was seen by the separate utterances of the soldiers in the film, or it can occur on a societal level.
This typically comes about when mass media sends these kinds of signals through various outlets. Feminists object to sexual objectification because they believe it perpetuates gender inequality. Therefore, one can argue that the movie Apocalypse Now continued to perpetuate these stereotypes by featuring the female strippers who were entertaining their male audience. This movie was reducing women’s roles in society to nothing more than sexual instruments.
Furthermore, the women were powerless against their male assailants since they would have been attacked if it wasn’t for the professional who rescued them. They are submissive and only made flirtatious statements. Consequently, the main message being sent to audiences is that women’s worth can only be linked to their physical appearance.
Indeed such messages can lead to severe repercussions in the future. They may lead to low self-esteem among women who fail to fit this mould of what a beautiful woman is. It hampers women’s self-esteem and may cause body shame amongst them. Furthermore, sexual objectification of women prevents their growth because it harbors their pursuit of intellectual growth.
Many women may be socialized to think that in order to get ahead, they only need to use their physical appearance. Although Coppola did not intend to take on such strong feminist concerns, he has somehow garnered attention from these individuals because his story goes against ideals propagated and valued by these feminists.
Moviemakers often have the daunting task of criticizing or propagating particular ideologies in society. Coppola intended to display the horrific aspects of the Vietnam War and not to create antifeminist propaganda, but this was eventually the unintended product of the production.
In Apocalypse Now, one immediately realizes that these minimal roles designated to women are a depiction of a patriarchal society. Similarly, the same thing can be said of gender roles in Heart of Darkness, which only portrayed women in a minor light. As one reads Conrad’s depiction of Marlow and Kurtz, one realizes that men are given a kind of demigod status.
They are the ones who have the power to conquer lands and ‘civilize natives’. In other words, men appear to be superhuman because they control the economic and political aspects of their society. Conrad did not bother to develop some of his characters or make them appear independent of men in the same manner that the men were independent of women.
Those women who appeared to be highlighted positively were only chosen on the basis of their physical appearance, as was the case with Kurtz’s mistress. Even the way in which Marlow talks about the ‘Intended’ depicts how weak and subservient women were. The author of the narrative should have at least developed Marlow’s aunt’s character as this would have created some balance in the novel.
In this regard, it can be asserted that the book propagated stereotypes prevalent within that society. It was not daring enough to challenge the status quo on gender roles even though it was bold enough to take on other unconventional issues such as Imperialism. There was only a narrow range of gender roles that this author could choose from. Women at that time in British society were only important in enhancing male roles.
Most of them were mothers and wives, so they offered a romantic aspect to males in society. Men were the ones who called the shots and made things happen. Likewise, Heart of Darkness brings out these sentiments because the Intended and Kurtz’ mistress derived their strength from women. However, feminists can resist such depictions because even in these traditional roles as wives and mothers, women can still be strong and brave. They can move other people to behave in the same way. Thus, feminism in Heart of Darkness is not clearly evident.
The native seductress appears to have a specific power within her. She can use this seductive power to achieve certain goals for herself. However, the author instead punishes these powers that she has by killing Kurtz at the end of the novella. He is, therefore, saying that women have no choice but to accept their traditional roles, or else they will cause nothing more than negative consequences. Conrad could have depicted such a character, and this may have propagated feminist ideals.
While Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now were unconventional in terms of their subject matter and terms of the status quo, the two pieces did not succeed in challenging traditional female roles. None of the pieces questioned societal gender stereotypes. Apocalypse Now perpetuated gender inequality, while Heart of Darkness continued to reinforce male patriarchy.
As the comparison essay on Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness shows, the producer and author respectively failed to identify opportunities in which they could grant their female characters some kind of leverage. Women were weak and voiceless in both tales, and yet this is not necessarily an accurate depiction of gender roles in those societies. American society in 2001 was still confronted by the same challenge that writers in colonial times were faced with, challenging gender roles.
Coppola, Francis. Apocalypse Now Redux. You Tube Video, 2010. Web.
Conrad, Lauren. Heart of Darkness. London: Blackwood’s magazine, 1902. Print
Heart of Darkness Essay
The author of the novella, Joseph Conrad, based the story on a trip that he took through Congo during his years as a sailor. The story revolves around the life of a seaman, Marlow, who fresh from Europe goes on a journey up the Congo River to relieve Kurtz who is the most successful ivory trader working for the Belgian government.
Prior to his personal encounter with Kurtz, Marlow admires Kurtz due to his writings about the civilization of the African continent. The sole reason that drove Marlow to visit Africa was his quest to meet Kurtz face to face. He gets a job as a riverboat captain with a Belgian company that deals with the trade of ivory in the African region. During his trip, he encounters the widespread brutality of the whites to the Africans.
His experience in Africa inspires revulsion as well as the dehumanizing effect of colonialism a disgust that culminates after he discovers that Kurtz had degenerated from an enlightened white into a vicious, power-hungry subjugator of the African natives. When he finally meets Kurtz, he is near death ravaged by not only disease but also dissipation.
After Kurtz’s death, Marlow goes back to England. On meeting Marlow’s fiancée, he lies about Kurtz’s activities and falsely claims that he called her name before he died. An unnamed narrator introduces the story as he tells us about the evening spent aboard the Nellie. He later introduces Marlow who narrates the story from his point of view.
In bringing out the clear picture of his experience in a society consisting of whites and blacks, Conrad uses some significant characters in the story. Throughout the novella, the author addresses only two characters by their names-Charlie Marrow and Kurtz. Marlow is the main character of the story who is very determined in achieving his main goal-meeting Kurtz.
He brings out the picture of the colonial era in Africa since he is neither an African nor a colonialist. He experiences all that happens regarding colonialism during his trip to Africa thus best placed to give a detailed account of the experiences of both the colonialists and the native Africans. On the other hand, Kurtz is the chief of one of the European stations in Congo.
His genius and superiority makes him a legendary icon in Europe. However, he turns into a hypocrite as he uses every opportunity to exploit the native Africans other than civilizing them amassing a lot of wealth as Conrad says, “He sends in as much ivory as all the others put together ..” (84).
The narrator does not address the other characters in the story with their real names but they all play a pivotal role in the development of the story’s theme. They include the Russian trader, cannibals, Chief accountant, General Manager, pilgrims, Brick maker, Helmsman and ‘the intended’.
The main theme of the story is colonialism and its effects not only to the Africans but also to the whites/colonizers. The Europeans were not only supposed to bring wealth to their nations but also to educate and civilize the Africans. However, the wealth of the African continent overcame their desire to civilize the African continent.
The white’s utilized high ideals of colonization as a cover to allow them rip any form of wealth that they came across. Due to the greed of the colonialists, enmity developed between the colonialists as they sought to get a bigger share of the African wealth. In the process, they ended up killing each other. On the other hand, the Africans did not only lose their wealth to the Europeans but also lost their lives as they worked for the white men.
The other theme that the author develops is the journey to one’s self. Marlow’s mission in finding Kurtz is to find his self. Just like Kurtz, he had good intentions upon entering the African continent. As the story unfolds, Conrad points out that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, at the start of his journey to Africa, and through his encounter with the hardships of the jungle, he would become like Kurtz.
Conrad employs symbolism to bring out his themes. Moral uncertainty was a major characteristic of the blacks and whites during the colonial period. In demonstrating this, Conrad consistently alters common symbolic conceptions of light and dark. The black is not synonymous with evil or the white with good but rather both symbols are interchangeable depending on the circumstance(s) in question.
Throughout the novella, white and black parties are alternately examples of acute suffering, civilized dignity, violent savagery as well as moral refinement. This demonstrates that no race is wholly good or evil and that all human beings are a confusing mixture of propensities for almost all types of behavior. Another form of symbolism is the use of flies. Files appear in Chapter one when a slave dies and in Chapter three when Kurtz dies thus symbolizing death.
The author also symbolically uses some characters. For instance, the Accountant shows how the company wanted to be seen-elegant despite the many poor Africans within the region. According to Conrad, the accountant was “a white man, in such an unexpected elegance” (83). He describes the Africans as “black shadows of disease and starvation” (Conrad 82).
The Congo River forms the setting of the story. Generally, this culminates into the African continent since we get the picture from the author’s description-the trees, the jungle, the fog as well as the scary darkness. Conrad uses a poetic as well as introspective style in writing the novella. The story establishes a strangely enchanting rhythm that not only haunts but also echoes the reader’s mind.
The rhythm created in the reader’s mind make the story so deeply affecting. In conclusion, Heart of the Darkness is a rich story that takes the reader through the mind of someone who experienced the realities of the colonial period in Africa.
Comparison of the Stories “Heart of Darkness” and “The Lamp at Noon” Essay
An important aspect of any story is the setting that the reader can imagine. The atmosphere that is created, very much adds to the general theme and the relationship between the characters and the surrounding environment.
“Heart of Darkness” and “The Lamp at Noon”, are stories where the setting plays a great role in the development of events and delivers a tone that is very unique and specific to the different situations.
There are many similarities and qualities that make each story a personal experience which has a significant effect on the audience.
In the “Heart of Darkness” the reader begins to feel the heavy atmosphere, as soon as Marlow starts his journey on the boat. The eerie surroundings, unknown land and people who are much different from the known world make the setting very foreign.
The further they travel down the river, the darker seems to be the jungle and people’s thoughts and expectations of what is to come. The fact that there are “cannibals” on the boat with Mr. Marlow adds to the imagery of a forbidden place where someone from the outside world can be in danger and disappear without a trace.
The atmosphere of the country, jungle and the boat darken even further when Charles Marlow and his crew men are met with enemy “fire”—arrows and spears. When the helmsman is killed and falls right by Mr. Marlow, it is easy to see how the environment and the events increase the devastation and panic sets in. Doubts of the purpose and the final goal overtake Charles Marlow and he is unaware if there is a point to continue. Everything that happens is pressuring people and seems like a heavy weight that cannot be lifted.
Even the atmospheric conditions of fog, the dark nights and the dense air are against people and demand to be left undisturbed. The nature greatly overpowers humans and commands them to turn back with many signs but nonetheless, they persist, as Mr. Marlow has an important mission. When they arrive at the station, the situation becomes even grimmer because Marlow is disappointed in Kurtz and is now sure that they came there for nothing.
He is thinking that the lives of people lost were not worth the trip. When he and Kurtz fall ill, it is another sign that they should not be there and that the whole world is against foreign people being in that place. Most importantly, the journey is the travel inside a man’s soul where the darkest corners are observed and cannot be lighted. People discover their true identities and those of others.
In “The Lamp at Noon”, the setting of the story also plays a very significant factor. The fact that two people are lonely, even though being very close, shows how the surrounding conditions can be alienating to humans. Ellen and Paul are desperately struggling on their farm with little crops and ability to prosper and this illustrates a dead end that has no escape. Their struggle through the unbeatable chances makes their battle with nature and weather even more in vein and makes them feel small and helpless.
Not only there is separation in their personal lives but the Great Depression makes it difficult to survive and see any future in anything the couple gets involved in. The isolation in the harsh environment sets the base for a distance between people and individuals from nature and land. People have been relying on their farms for a very long time and here, the conditions are such that there is no possibility to overpower nature. The desperation and hopelessness is described through imagery and is present throughout the story.
Another representation of the dark and inescapable nature of the environment is the storm. The hauling of the wind and walls creaking, all seem to be against the two lonely people on their farm. Ellen looks for support from Paul, as the surrounding conditions make her feel lonely and unsafe but he is unable to comfort her. All the forces of nature and human desperation come together to form an atmosphere of frustration and an unfamiliar world.
The mood of the story and the harshness of nature are displayed through imagery and personification. The wind becomes a force that is unstoppable and engulfs the little farm, consuming people and their emotions. Everything around becomes mad and wild, people are torn apart and thrown far away by the nature’s wrath.
Even when the couple tries to connect and support each other, their words are soundless. Paul is confused at what Ellen really wants and seems to live in a different world, set apart by the cruelty of desperation and inability to succeed. Ellen looks for help and consolation from Paul but he cannot hear her words. She cries and screams of pain but the wind and darkening skies swallow all sound and forbid any communication.
The two stories are very similar in their setting because both show how people and nature are two very different entities. “The Heart of Darkness” describes a journey into the land of horror and pain, and this is representative of the people’s deepest emotions and outlook on life. “The Lamp at Noon” portrays a similar movement through people’s soul only without them physically moving.
It is interesting that even standing in one place an individual can delve into the deepest parts of their heart and mind, yet find no comfort and outlet of their feelings. The two stories are mostly centered on the surrounding environment and the people’s manifestation of their thoughts only adds to the general theme of darkness, loneliness and cruelty of the surroundings and people’s characters. It is made obvious that humans are not the rulers of their lives and forces of nature.
The insignificance of human individuality and their efforts is made obvious by how harsh conditions can direct and force people into a situation that so desperately must be avoided. The “darkness” of the two stories confirms that people have no control over nature and themselves, as it is an unknown world that must be carefully studied and explored.
The characters of the two stories and their actions are determined by the setting they find themselves in. It is clear that suffering and pain are inseparable from human experience and often, nature adds a great deal to the emotional instability and doubts that people feel. The authors have realistically illustrated how the surrounding environment overtakes the lives of individuals and robs them of almost all control. The connection to reality is very vivid and the circumstances can be physically felt.
Taking a Glance into the Heart of Darkness: The Ambitions and Failure of the Civilization Essay
Rethinking the historical events is one of those tasks that inevitably bring people to realizing their past mistakes and drawing experiences so that these mistakes would not be made further on in the future.
On Conrad’ Heart of Darkness, the lead character, Marlow, at first considers the reasons behind the Europeans who were heading to the wilderness of Central Africa as “civilized” and rather noble; however, further on, Marlow becomes disappointed about these reasons. After re-evaluating the ambitions of the people exploring the African continent in such an impudent manner, Marlow realizes that the true reasons behind the Europeans’ travel were far more egotistic than he could ever imagine.
Indeed, the goals of the people, heading for the terra incognita of the distant and savage lands are not quite clear; wisely enough, Conrad does not disclose the aims of the travelers from the very first page – eh only hints at the possible aims which the travelers might pursue: “But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect” (Conrad 9).
However, when it comes to discussing the reasons that made Marlow join the ranks of those exploring the uncharted lands, Conrad makes it obvious that Marlow’s intentions were most innocent: “Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration.” (Conrad 11).
It seems that for Marlow, only the passion for adventures and new experiences was the true motivation. Nevertheless, even Marlow has hard times with learning about the continent and its inhabitants:
After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist — obviously — in the sunshine. (Conrad 122)
Finally, he also lets some of the madness which the rest of the crew was infected with reach his heart, filling it with darkness as well: “I had to beat that Shadow — this wandering and tormented thing. ‘You will be lost,’ I said –‘utterly lost.’” (Conrad 137).
Therefore, the readers are left with guessing what the Europeans heading for the new lands are going to do. On the one hand, it might seem that the mission of these people could be quite noble; starting with bringing common knowledge to the pagans, it could expand further on to establishing relationships with the people inhabiting the uncharted places, which will supposedly include not only cultural, but also economical and even political ties.
However, Conrad clarifies the given issue pretty soon, explaining that the causes bringing the Europeans to the uncharted lands are far from being noble: “They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force — nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others” (Conrad 9).
As Conrad’s lead character, Marlow, continues telling his side of the story, it becomes clear that the Europeans ware aiming only at cashing in on the inhabitants of the wilderness: “They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got.
It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind — as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness” (Conrad 9). The author stresses that the goals of a new European presence were to use the lands, the people and their resources and then leave the place, barren and forgotten.
Thus, the question of what the European people were targeting at when heading for the wilderness of the continent remains open. While there are some specks of humanity left in some of the characters, including Marlow, the narrator, it is still clear that the story focuses on the lowest of the low and their efforts to grab every single thing of the slightest market value.
The darkness within the man who came to conquer started to grow: “It had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation” (Conrad 92).
The above-mentioned, therefore, triggers the question whether these are the wild pagans, the gloomy forests of the continent or the wretched souls of the European conquerors where the darkness is born. It is quite peculiar that all characters portrayed in the novel pursue their own goals, though their goals seem to revolve around the same core, i.e., the desire to get their own profit out of the situation which they have trapped themselves in.
Hence, it seems that none of the characters reach their goals in the end; the attempt to conquer the wilderness ended up in a complete failure. Marlow’s point seems sadly legitimate enough. Driven by the supposedly huge economical and financial profit, the European travelers were defeated not by the threatening darkness of the African continent. It was the darkness of their souls that trapped them – the darkness of the people making their way over corpses.
Conrad, Joseph n. d., Heart of Darkness. PDF file. 17 Nov. 2012. <https://planetpdf.com/planetpdf/pdfs/free_ebooks/Heart_of_Darkness_T.pdf>.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Heart of Darkness Essay
Oscar Wilde’s comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, is a satire of everything stuffy and constrictive in the 19th and early 20th century. It shows the modern reader how different life was back then, and also how much remains the same. The play explores the theme of the relations between the sexes. It also highlights the way that all of us cherish illusions about ourselves and others.
Wilde spares no one. Everyone is ridiculous. John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, for example, are self-centered and, of course, almost entirely idle. The fashionable, urban, Gwendolen Fairfax is a schemer, but her supposedly unsophisticated rural counterpart, Cecily Cardew, is equally calculating.
The dowager Lady Bracknell plays the game of marriage politics, is un-motherly, and a snob. Even Miss Prism, the governess, is a foolish and fallible creature. Canon Chasuble seems totally unconnected with spirituality. They are all skewered with equal ferocity. Only the butlers seem relatively free of idiocies.
The social constraints on women and men in expressing their feelings for one another are also parodied. A modern couple would not have to answer to Lady Bracknell to obtain permission to marry. On the other hand, girls still fantasize about boys they like. Today, however, they might post blog posts of fan fiction instead of writing an imaginary diary, as Cecily did.
Wilde also satirizes the class distinctions that obsessed so many people. For example, Algernon deplores the lax morals of the servant class. However, he himself lives by fibs and outright lies.
This play holds up a mirror to all of us, even after a century. People are foolish and they don’t always see themselves or others honestly and fully. Wilde shows us this with immense humor.
The Heart of Darkness, exploring the impact of interior Africa on European colonials, seems at first glance to be filled with racist references. However, this impression dissipates when the story is more closely examined. Conrad actually seems deeply sympathetic with the indigenous people, and their oppression and near-enslavement by the colonial personnel.
The descriptions of the landscape provide a vivid sense of the way that Europeans felt when confronted with an utterly alien landscape, flora, fauna, and people. Conrad, for example, repeatedly notes the darkness and the thickness of the forest, even a short distance from the shore, and speaks of the darkness at its center. He is talking here as much about the unknown rather than an absence of light, although rain forests can be dark. The skillful speech of Mr. Kurtz is even described as being light coming out of the deep darkness of the continent.
The author is trying to convey the complete lack of fit between most of the expectations, behaviors, planning and responses of the colonials, on the one hand, and the realities of the continent itself, on the other. In spite of the greater firepower that the colonials possess, Conrad shows the reader, disease and madness claim many casualties.
This reminds the modern reader of the way that high tech armies throw themselves at trouble spots around the world, and end up baffled and ineffective. The land, the climate, the terrain, and the people, just make overcoming the local situation nearly impossible.
This novel makes the extraction of ivory and other resources seem all the more ludicrous, and wasteful of lives. Conrad makes a powerful and moving argument against the whole colonial enterprise, in spite of using the racist locutions that were common in his era. This book should perhaps always be read in concert with some literature by Africans themselves, just to give a different perspective on the region and its issues.