Symbolism in “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad Essay

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer


Heart of Darkness is a novel that was written by Joseph Conrad. This novel was a great work since it topped the list among many such novels. The novel is symbolic in providing a description of a man’s journey towards his inner being. It provides a mysterious and adventurers story captured in Central Africa. The symbolism and ambiguity found in Conrad’s writing have been a subject of debate since its meaning has been subject to conflicting interpretations.


The author seems to have written the book basing it from his past experiences. This can be seen in the diary he kept while he was working as a seaman. He had sailed to Africa, and that is where he recorded stuff in his diary. During the several voyages, he had recorded information in his diary that reflected on most of the characters in his diary. This means that some of the incidences and impressions found in his novel are based on facts. However, Conrad’s expression of the environment of Africa in his novel may be based on his creativity and not necessarily facts. He also creates portraits of destruction and greed, which may be pure creativity.

The author’s relationship with one of his characters, Marlow is also subject to criticism. Marlow has often been mistaken to be Conrad’s spokesman. Conrad’s evocative powers with regards to his clever use of imagery, can be commended. This is because it has managed to provide a sinister environment through the use of fine details while describing the natives of Africa and the jungles that exist there.

There is the use of visual imagery in his work, and this was achieved through the use of contrast (black and white). The contrast was also used by the author to demonstrate how that world and the life lived in that world was morally uncertain. However, the author was not trying to justify which colour was good and which was bad. Both were used interchangeably.

At some point in the novel, Conrad’s use of imagery appeared vague and confusing in that it did not provide a clear image of the major characters and events. However, this helped create a psychological depth to that story demanding deep involvement and concentration from the reader.

Some form of exploitation of the Africans by the Europeans can be picked up from the novel too. This may be seen in the use of social Darwinism in the novel. This is seen where the author mentions about how the indigenous people were in dire need of the technological advancements and religion brought about by the Europeans (Conrad 45). The Europeans were portrayed as hypocrites since their actual intentions were to exploit the Africans for their own benefits.

They scrambled for wealth and ended up destroying the people and their lands without pity. The manner in which Conrad portrays the white imperialists and compares them with the Africans who lived in harmony in their natural environment, he provides the evidence that Darwin’s theory is true. He simply shows that Africans are fittest survivors. The author continued to expose some of the ills of the white settlers and blamed it on their lack of moral uprightness.


The novel by Conrad is a masterpiece since it is vividly written. He provides information about some of the things he picked out while he was in Africa. He criticizes some of the practices of the Europeans who had come to scramble and partition Africa for their own benefits. It is an interesting book and with a lot of teachings.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and other stories. New York: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 1998. Print.

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