Prior to their personal encounter, Marlow knows and admires Kurtz through his reputation and his writings regarding the civilizing of the African continent and sets out on the journey excited at the prospect of meeting him. However, Marlow's experience in Africa inspires revulsion at the dehumanizing effects of colonialism, a disgust that culminates when he discovers that Kurtz has degenerated from an enlightened civilizer into a vicious, power-hungry subjugator of the African natives.
Marlow's journey forces him to confront not only Kurtz's corruption but also those elements within himself that are subject to the same temptations that affected Kurtz. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, the mythical figure is near death, ravaged by disease and dissipation.
During the visit he lies to her about Kurtz's activities and falsely claims that he called her name before he died. Critics have debated the motives behind this last deception: Like many of Conrad's novels and short stories, Heart of Darkness is based in part upon the author's personal experiences. In , after more than a decade as a seaman, Conrad requested the command of a Belgian steamer sailing for Africa. A diary kept during the subsequent voyage provides evidence that many of the characters, incidents, and impressions recalled in Heart of Darkness have factual bases.
Contemporary critics, however, contend that Conrad's manipulation of the African environment in the novel, and the portraits of greed, destruction, and psychological regression that he creates, should be credited solely to his imaginative genius. Moreover, the relationship of Conrad to his character Marlow has been a fertile area of critical discussion. Marlow has been variously perceived as the spokesman for Conrad, a complex and separate creation, and as a combination of both.
The affinity between Marlow and Kurtz is considered the most crucial relationship between characters in the story. Many critics have commented on Conrad's evocative powers in Heart of Darkness, paying particular attention to his use of imagery, which manages to evoke a sinister atmosphere through the accretion of objectively described details of the African jungle and natives.
The visual imagery, which heavily depends upon contrasting patterns of light and dark, contributes most appreciably to the consistently ambiguous tone of the work. To demonstrate the moral uncertainty of this world and of life in general, Conrad consistently alters common symbolic conceptions of light and dark. Thus, white is not synonymous with good, nor black with evil, but rather both symbols are interchangeable. Throughout the novella, white and black characters are alternately examples of acute suffering, civilized dignity, moral refinement, or violent savagery, demonstrating that no race is wholly good or evil, and that all human beings are a confusing mixture of propensities for all types of behavior.
While some critics consider Conrad's imagery vague and confused in a manner that does not present a clear picture of the principal characters and events, most find that the ambiguity of description lends a psychological depth to the story that demands the close attention and involvement of the reader. The political significance of Heart of Darkness has also received much critical attention. Social Darwinism and a strong belief in the Carlylean work ethic are two of the Victorian standards that are attacked in the novella.
The first served to justify European exploitation of Africa and other areas of the world by purporting that the indigenous peoples were in need of the superior technological and religious knowledge of Europe. In Heart of Darkness, the hypocrisy of these aims is illustrated by the all-consuming scramble for wealth by the Europeans, who destroy the land and people without remorse.
Critics contend that by contrasting the harmony that exists between the native Africans and their natural environment with the lazy, brutish grotesques that white imperialists become in Africa, Conrad proves that it is the Africans who are the fittest to survive in their native land and that Darwin's theory was in fact never intended to be applied to races or nations.
In similar fashion, the work ethic that Marlow seems to embrace, praising its effectiveness in keeping his mind free of undesirable thoughts, is in fact instrumental in blinding him to the events around him. Throughout the novella, Conrad's portrayal of the failure of various European ideologies in Africa suggests the consequent failure and moral bankruptcy of Europe. Again, this reading is more ambiguous than it seems. On the one hand, it implies that all peoples need a more advanced civilization to come along and save them; on the other hand, though, it also implies that the British would and did react to an exploitative colonial presence in the same way the Africans are reacting.
Additionally, moments of irony and narrative unreliability are scattered throughout the text, suggesting that Conrad does indeed provide a framework against which Heart of Darkness can be read as critical or ironic. Discuss the importance of the Congo River in this narrative.
Why does Marlow travel primarily by boat and seldom on land? The river is a space that allows Marlow to be simultaneously within and removed from the African interior. On the river he is isolated, a spectator. Conrad is able to develop this darkness through the ominous and gloomy descriptions of the characters and setting. His portrayals convey a sense of foreboding leading to a lot of sinister imagery.
The dismal surroundings described are parallel with the darkness that has infected Kurtz and the continuous growing of it inside of Marlow. This quote illustrates that the darkness infested in the physical environment can affect ones ability to see the blackness inside their own morals.
The passage below is from the scene in which the steamboat is passing the African natives. Here the members of the company are showing prejudices towards these natives and their savagery.
Well, you know, that was the worst of it — this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was jus the thought of their humanity — like yours — the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.
Marlow wants to believe that these natives are in fact inhuman because he wants them to have no relation to him or the Company men. In reality however, he knows that they are all bonded. There is in fact darkness inside of everyone. This descent into darkness happens to both Marlow and Kurtz. From the beginning of the novel, Marlow and the readers are informed that Kurtz has gone mad.
When Marlow finally finds Kurtz he is able to see that his mind has begun to deteriorate and he definitely suffers from madness. I believe his last words are a symbol of him accepting the darkness that has infected his mind and the darkness that he has caused since coming to Africa.
When Marlow returns home and brings the papers to Kurtz fiance after his aforementioned death he informs her that his last words were her name. This quote from the novel is from when Marlow is speaking to Kurtz intended.
It is an example of how Marlow participates in something he does not like, lying. He has fallen victim to some of the darkness. He also comes to the realization that there is no way to survive without becoming a little mad. Ultimately the psychological darkness discovered in Heart of Darkness is that all men are barbaric at heart.
The human psyche presented in the novel proves that men are just as savage as the unchartered regions of the jungle themselves. Throughout the novel the maps are significant because they help to exemplify the irony presented in Heart of Darkness. Blank spots on the map signify the unexplored regions.
Once they have been discovered and colonized by the Europeans they become colored in to signify the exploration and colonization that has been achieved there. This quote from Heart of Darkness symbolizes that Africa had once been a place of wander and mystery but now because of the colonization it had become a place of darkness. From the quote, Marlow is explaining that the undiscovered areas are full of mystery and wonder until they eventually become colonized and filled with darkness.
Many critics, including Chinua Achebe in his essay "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness", have made the claim that Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, despite the insights .
Heart of Darkness essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Heart of Darkness (Essay #3), Free Study Guides and book notes including comprehensive chapter analysis, complete summary analysis, author biography information, character profiles, theme analysis, metaphor analysis, and top ten quotes on classic literature. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad (Born Josef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) Polish-born English novelist, short story and novella writer, essayist, dramatist, and autobiographer. The following entry presents criticism of Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness () from to
Ultimately Heart of Darkness is a story of the pitfalls and perils of greed, lust, and the corruption of ideals and values by the darkness that dwells within all of mankind. It tells of the madness that the greed for riches or power can create within the heart and mind, and that even the best of intentions can become twisted into something evil and oppressive. Works Consulted. Conover, Matt. HEART OF . While in England between and , Joseph Conrad wrote the novella Heart of Darkness. Taking place during the height of European imperialism in Africa, Heart of Darkness follows the journey up the Congo River of Marlow, a steamboat captain. Marlow comes to Africa to escape the strict confines of European society.