Heart Of Darkness By Conrad

Heart Of Darkness By Conrad Joseph Conrad writes what seems to be a simple story about a man in search of an ivory hunter. Look deeper into the jungle, the core of Heart Of Darkness , where Conrad hides the meanings and symbolisms that shape this story. Conrad has been accused of being a racist because of the way he portrays the natives in this story. It is a controversy that continues even today. It can be argued that because of the way he depicts the natives, they cannot be an essential part of, Heart of Darkness. However, read between the lines, it is obvious that the story would not be shaped the way it is if the natives were not involved.

The natives in a sense create Kurtz. They are his “people” and his followers: “Suddenly round the corner of the house a group of men appeared, as though they had come up from the ground. They waded waist-deep in the grass in a compact body bearing an improvised stretcher in there midst. Instantly in the emptiness of the landscape a cry arose whose shrillness pierced the still air .. And is if by enchantment streams of human beings – of naked human beings – with spears in their hands, with bows, with shields, with wild glances and savage movements, were poured into the clearing by the dark-faced and pensive forest.

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(). The first time Marlow meets Kurtz is in this scene. It shows Kurtz not only depends on the natives for physical support but also for protection. Conrad’s portrayal of the natives as human beings with wild glances and savage movements is ironic because Conrad does not think they have the right to be put on the same level as the white man even though Kurtz could not exist without them. The natives are Kurtz’s followers and worship him like a god and yet they are seen as only a part of the jungle that is “dark” and “undiscovered”.

One scene in Heart of Darkness, which unquestionably shows the lack of respect the natives are given, is when Marlow is at the Company Station on his way to the Congo. He describes the natives as “ants” which are decomposers. Marlow is describing the natives as creatures that do nothing but break down and destroy the land. When Marlow tries to get away from this scene of natives he steps “into a gloomy circle of some Inferno .. Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair .. They were dying slowly ..

they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom,” (Conrad, pgs.1968-1969). Marlow characterizes the natives as “unearthly creatures” that have been abandoned from society. It has been accepted that they do not deserve to live like regular human beings. They must live in “abandonment and despair” because they are criminals. Marlow depicts them as slowly rising out of the earth as if they were horrid creatures that only come out in the darkness because no one can bear to see them in the daytime.

Marlow also describes the natives as “bundles of acute angles sat with their legs drawn up .. one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat up in the sunlight crossing his shins in front of him, and after a time let his woolly head fall on his breastbone,” (Conrad, pg. 1969). This is utter degradation of a human being.

At this point, one does not even see the natives as human anymore. They have been described not only as acute angles but also as dogs that lap up their water on all fours. How more degrading can one be to a race of people? The one distinguishable native in Heart of Darkness is the helmsman. Although, he is not important enough to be given a name, he is given a title, which is a step above his comrades. He is “an athletic black belonging to some coast tribe ..

He sported a pair of brass earrings, wore a blue cloth wrapper from the waist to the ankle, and thought all the world of himself. He was the most unstable kind of fool I had ever seen.” (45) Marlow’s first impression of his helmsman is not any kinder than his opinions of the other natives he has come in contact with thus far. He belonged to “some coast tribe”. Marlow did not care enough to find out the name of his tribe or anything else about him; he simply saw him as another creature. Marlow’s reaction to his helmsman is ironic because like Kurtz’s natives, he needs his helmsman in order to continue his mission.

The helmsman is also the one who dies while they are journeying up the river. He dies because of Marlow’s lack of knowledge of how to handle himself in the Congo. When they are being attacked, Marlow and the rest of his crew immediately start firing at the primitive arrows which are being shot at them, and the helmsman is the only one who finds an arrow in his chest. We two whites stood over him .. it looked as though he would presently put to us some question in an understandable language, but he died without uttering a sound, without moving a limb, without twitching a muscle. Only in the very last moment as though in response to some sign we could not see ..

he frowned heavily, and that frown gave to his Black Death mask an inconceivably sombre, brooding, and menacing expression. The lustre of inquiring glance faded swiftly into vacant glassiness. (47) Marlow and his crew obviously care about his death from this passage. It is not something they take lightly. The helmsman meant a lot to them, not only because he provided direction, but because he showed the crew that black men could hold a place of power and be needed just as much as anyone else.

This event provided an important lesson Marlow needed to learn. Marlow shows his true feelings about the helmsman when he admits that he “missed him even while his body was still lying on the pilot-house. Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in the black Sahara .. he had done something, he had steered .. he steered for me – I had to look after him.” (51) Here, Marlow shows his first sign of seeing a black man as valuable. He realizes how important the helmsman was to him, not only because he steered for him, but because he had created “a kind of partnership” and a “subtle bond” with the him which was “suddenly broken”. This is the only time throughout the book that Marlow creates any type of bond with someone outside of his own race.

This is the one native that is able to come out of the darkness and be a part of the “civilized” world. There are many other components that make up Heart Of Darkness other than the natives. One could write a book on this novel and still not have grasped everything Conrad intended to hint at in the jungle he created. Every word means something in this story. Every syllable is important in understanding what Conrad was trying to say in Heart Of Darkness: Do not let the darkness suck you in because you will never come out again. English Essays.

Heart Of Darkness By Conrad

Heart Of Darkness By Conrad Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad In Joseph Conrad’s novel, ‘Heart of Darkness’, the term “darkness” can be related to a few different meanings. Conrad uses this term in various ways to characterize social, political and psychological affairs in order to help the reader get a feel of his attitudes towards things, such as colonialism, Africa, and civilization. The first impression of the word “darkness” in relations to this novel that I understood was its reference to racism. This, I got from the way Conrad writes about the White people and how they treated the natives (Black), in Africa. During the colonization of Africa, forced ideals of a race that thought of themselves as more superior than those who occupied that land before them existed. This is demonstrated as Conrad writes about how the Whites completely dominate the Blacks in Africa.

A significant passage from the novel illustrating this point is when Marlow describes, ” Black shapes crouched, lay..The work was going on..this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die..they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom” (34-35). The natives were not “helpers”, but slaves who were forced to work till physical exhaustion under the orders of the White colonist. To further support the idea of racism as seen in this novel, consider the description that Marlow gives about an incident he encounters, “And whiles I had to look after the savage who was a fireman..to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs..he was useful because he had been instructed” (63-64). From this, Conrad acknowledges that although the natives take on some White Lai 2 characteristics, they are still seen as inferior. In that passage, the fireman is seen as a joke. Not as a man, but a “dog in breeches”.

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Therefore, no matter how educated or similar in appearance the Blacks become, they are still seen as being beneath the Whites. The natives are not given any personal traits or uniqueness unless they possess a similarity to the Whites. Even then we see no glimpse of humanity in their characters through Conrad’s writing. From racism, the idea of civilization is brought about in terms of “darkness”. Conrad uses the contrast of light and dark with relation to the civilized and the uncivilized.

The light of course, represents civilization or the civilized side of the world and the dark, more importantly represents the uncivilized or savage side of the world. From the passages quoted earlier, when Marlow calls the workers “black shadows of disease and starvation” (35), Conrad is reinforcing the idea that Blacks and the dark images they project are uncivilized and they are nothing to be wishing for. However, through Conrad’s reiteration of Marlow’s experience, there was an interesting aspect of the slaves seen. The reality is that these Blacks are what created the civilized life for the Whites. The Blacks are being used by the civilized, in turn making them uncivilized.

But, the fact remains that the Whites may be considered the savages for working these Blacks to death. However, as ironic as it may seem, their view was that the natives were there to be conquered. All in all, Conrad writes about civilization versus savagery. Through the novel, he implies that the setting of laws and codes that would encourage men to achieve higher standards is what creates civilization. It prevents men from reverting back to their darker tendencies. Civilization, however, must be learned.

London itself, in the book is a symbol of enlightenment, was once “one of the darker places of the earth” before the Romans forced civilization upon Lai 3 them (18). While society seems to restrain these savage lifestyles, it does not get rid of them. These primitive tendencies will always be like a black cloth lurking in the background. The possibility of reverting back to savagery is seen in Kurtz. When Marlow meets Kurtz, he finds a man that has totally thrown off the restraints of civilization and has de-evolved into a primitive state.

Marlow and Kurtz are two opposite examples of the human condition. Kurtz represents what every man will become if left to his own natural desires without a protective civilized environment. Marlow represents the civilized soul that has not been drawn back into savagery by a dark, alienated jungle. This darkness that Conrad writes about can also mean the wilderness in which the story took place. The wilderness, where the natives live in, continually watches for the “fantastic invasion” (58) of the White man.

The activities of the White people are viewed throughout the novel as insane and pointless. Conrad feels that they spend their existence looking for ivory or plotting against each other for position and status within their own environment. Marlow comments, “The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it..I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life” (44). In contrast, the wilderness appears solid, immovable, and ominously threatening. During Marlow’s stay at Central Station, he describes the surrounding wilderness as a “rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants, piled up, crested, ready to..sweep every little man of us out of his little existence” (54).

It is difficult to say, however, what the intentions of the wilderness actually are. Through Marlow’s eyes, it is always somewhat of an enigma. It is “an implacable force brooding over and inscrutable intention” (60). Lai 4 Conrad pictures the wilderness as not just an remote force that is unconcerned with anything else but itself, but rather, a mirror in which one can see clearly the darkness hidden in one’s heart. The environment of the jungle, in contrast to the European form of society from which the White men have come, imposes no restraints upon the behavior of an individual. It is a harsh environment that tests one’s ability to hold onto sanity without an organized structure of society.

The people who are successful in fighting the wilderness are those who create their own structured environments. As long as they keep themselves busy with surface activities, they cannot hear the whispers of the wilderness, and the darkness in their hearts can remains buried. Marlow himself must face the truth that the wilderness reveals to him. He sees the wild dancing and chanting of the natives, and though he says at first that it is incomprehensible to him, upon reflection he admits that he does feel some kind of connection to the “passionate uproar.” He says, “[The earth] was unearthly, and the men were-No, they were not humans. Well, you know, that was the worst of it-this suspicion of their not being inhuman” (62).

But, even in the great demoralization of the land, Marlow’s work, piloting and repairing the steamboat distracts him from such thoughts. Kurtz, the fabulously successful chief of the Inner Station who has come from Europe to civilize the natives, surrender to the savagery of the wilderness. He gives up his high aspirations, and the wilderness brings out the darkness and brutality in his heart. All principles and desires of the European society are stripped from him, and the unspeakable passions and greed of his true nature are revealed. He collects a following of loyal natives who worship him as an idol, and they raid surrounding villages to collect a huge amount of ivory.

The full significance of the wilderness can be seen only through Kurtz, because he gives in to the powers of the wilderness. Conrad writes that Lai 5 through the influence of the wilderness, basic human nature is revealed to him. At his death, he sees the true state of mankind. His gaze is “piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness” (113). His final statement of “The horror! The horror!” (112) is his judgment on all of life. The wilderness brings Kurtz to the point where he has a full awareness of himself, and from there he makes his affirmation about all mankind. Thus, in the story the wilderness is more than a backdrop for the plot.

It is an unmerciful force that continually urges the characters to shed the restraints of civilization and to indulge the despicable desires of their hearts. The wilderness destroys man’s pretensions and shows him the truth about himself. I think Conrad is trying to imply that every man has a heart of darkness that is usually drowned out by the light of civilization. However, when removed from civilized society, the raw evil of untamed lifestyles within his soul will be unleashed. And that I think, is the meaning of the “heart” of darkness, which is the journey of discovering one’s true self. Bibliography Conrad, Joseph.

Heart of Darkness. England. Penguin Books, 1995.


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