Existentialism in Heart of Darkness
In the novel Heart of Darkness, Conrad explores existential nihilism, which is the belief that the world is without meaning or purpose. Through the protagonist Marlow, Conrad introduces the story of those on board the steamship Nellie that are unaware of their own meaninglessness. Their voyage through the African Congo depicts the absurdity of man’s existence and the decay of human ideals in the chaos of the Belgian Congo.
Any attempt at avoiding the darkness that exists in the chaotic unorganized natural world is futile. Those that demonstrate restraint only emphasize existential nihilism as their actions ultimately result in meaninglessness. Through the characterization of Kurtz, the reader can witness a man who lacks restraint due to his acknowledgment of purposelessness. Marlow’s search for such a man is the ultimate goal of the novel. It is then Conrad’s goal to lead the reader through vagueness and pessimism to a conclusive void. The novel’s conclusion ultimately portrays existential nihilism, where Kurtz’s last words confirm the world’s meaninglessness and Marlow becomes more like the pessimistic Kurtz due to the lie told to Kurtz’s Intended. Although Conrad himself may not essentially be nihilistic, his novel contains a dark nihilistic truth: the world is without meaning or purpose.
The antagonist Kurtz is an example of existential loneliness because he becomes alienated from civilized society. He intentionally avoids returning to England because he is no longer able to endure the constraints that the civilized society is trying to impose upon him. Being in the Belgian Congo with the power to carry out and whims and act on all of his desire causes Kurtzr’s slow decay into savagery. For Kurtz, the misplaced authenticity of his actions, along with the unrestrained environment of the Congo proves too great a temptation for constructive engagement with the African people. The laissez-faire capitalism–which becomes associated with power in Kurtzr’s mind–fostered by an imperialistic Europe leads Kurtz to become defined by materialism the appetite for more ivory had got the better of the-what shall I say? less material aspirations (Conrad 96). This materialistic inauthenticity, in turn, creates a need to gain more, and is responsible for Kurtzr’s inevitable fall from existential grace and resulting a subsequent godlike position amongst his natives.
The protagonist Marlow is a recently appointed captain of the steamship Nellie the story being from Marlow’s point of view, gives a glimpse from the outside of what has changed Kurtz so irrevocably from the European man of sophistication to something far more frightening. As if to demonstrate this, Conrad depicts Kurtz on his deathbed. In the final moments of his life, Kurtz seems to see something that we cannot. Staring within himself he can only mutter, “The horror! The horror!” Marlow realizes that his reality is a horror, that nothing really exists but at the same time, everything does, especially when he encounters death because everything is connected.
Though European countries had been invading lesser developed countries for centuries, their involvement in other countries thrived in a period known as the Age of New Imperialism as their thirst […]
The mentality of male superiority dominates most literature despite recent efforts for gender equality. Many masterpieces praised today contain patriarchal perspectives, particularly historic literature. In Joseph Conradr’s Victorian novel Heart […]
I selected this book for a number of reasons. The first reason is that you the teacher suggested it and you suggested the last book I read for your class. […]
In the beginning of the novel, Marlowr’s comparison of the barbarian darkness on the northern fringes of the Roman Empire and the Belgian Congo, the dark heart of Africa, are […]
The Antichrist is quite a peculiar and mysterious character of the Bible, appearing at the end times of man as an asset of the Devil, tasked with leading many away […]
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad tells the tale of numerous lives influenced by the desire of power, and the lust of wealth. Marlow is a sailor who ends up […]
In Joseph Conradr’s Heart of Darkness, despite the disparaging comments made about women, numerous feminine figures in the story display or exercise a more notable amount of power than the […]
In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, women symbolize pretty illusions and the European civilizationr’s capability to hide its bigotry and racism behind pretty ideals. In many areas […]
Joseph Conradr’s Heart of Darkness has been analyzed and critiqued for its misrepresentation of the African race. Some critics have even gone so far as to say that the whole […]
In the novel Heart of Darkness, Conrad explores existential nihilism, which is the belief that the world is without meaning or purpose. Through the protagonist Marlow, Conrad introduces the story […]