Heart of Darkness For most of his young life, Joseph Conrad has had a burning desire to be a seaman; and in 1874, when he is just sixteen years of age, his dream becomes a reality. In addition, he worked his way up through the ranks and piloted a merchant ship up the mighty Congo River in central Africa. Later, it is the memory of this voyage that provides him with the first hand details for writing his most famous novel HEART OF DARKNESS, and these memories spring to life as Marlow, the main character, replaces Conrad in the story. A feeling of darkness is everywhere and it causes the reader to feel surrounded by it. This motif causes the reader to see the darkness in his surroundings, to experience the dark deeds of man, and to recognize the darkness of man’s mind. HEART OF DARKNESS presents a story within a story, and at the beginning, we find Marlow, along with three friends, on board a small ship which is anchored near the mouth of the Thames River in London.
When the unnamed narrator, uses words like gloom, black, and brooding repeatedly, it becomes evident that darkness is unfolding as a motif. The following example first gets the reader’s attention: ‘The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.’ While they wait for the tide to turn, the men become lost in their own thoughts until Marlow seizes the opportunity to tell his friends about his life as a seaman. He tells them of his fascination with Africa and how he longs to explore it. When he describes the Congo as ‘ 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’ a sense of dark mystery is felt by the reader, and as he continues, all kinds of negative information await him. He is next met with a tale of a man hanging himself because of the terrible heat. Then he experiences the painful stabbing of flies and the groans and misery of the sick and dying.
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Fifteen days later, he describes his arrival at Central Station as hobbling in to an area of back water bordered by smelly mud. Then he is overcome by the thought that the devil is running the show. Later he is thunderstruck by the news that his steamer has been sunk. After repairing the steamer, Marlow continues up the Congo and uses references to cannibals, rotten hippo meat, strange witchcraft, and lightless region of subtle horrors to describe his surroundings. The string of darkness is everywhere. Not only does Conrad use negative words and phrases to create darkness in his surroundings, he uses them to show the evilness of man’s deeds.
A clear example of this is communicated in the following passage where black men are held as prisoners and forced to do hard labor for their white enemies. ‘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… All their meager breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily up-hill.’ The following passage depicts inhuman cruelty in the rarest form and shows the dark side of Kurtz. It causes an eerie feeling of gloom to surround the reader: ‘And there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids… a head that seemed to sleep at the top of the pole, and with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.’ Conrad’s realistic description is possible because of the underlying pattern of darkness and gloom. A third way that Conrad uses the darkness motif is to show how the darkness of greed and loneliness can take over a man’s mind.
... the remark. Marlow, the main character in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is able to assert that Mr. Kurtz was a remarkable man. This ... man named Kurtz. Marlow, excited by such information continues his quest to discover the man behind the shroud of darkness. When he finally meets the man ...
The reader cannot help but understand the way it has consumed Kurtz and the struggle with which Marlow deals. Because Kurtz is probably of weak character from the beginning, it is easier for him to give into these characteristics. Conrad illustrates this in the following passage: ‘The wilderness had found Kurtz out early. 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.’ In the next passage he shows how Kurtz allows himself to abandon the girl who waited for him and to become consumed with greed, power, and self: ‘ It was as though a veil had been rent.
I saw on that ivory face the impression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror- of an intense and hopeless despair.’ In describing Marlow, Conrad pictures him as a man of much ambition and a strong desire for adventure. However, he implies that Marlow has shown self discipline and a stronger moral character than Kurtz. He lets the reader know that although Marlow has little respect for Kurtz, he is still unable to betray him to his countrymen by turn ing over personal papers to his enemies. In addition, he cannot hurt Kurtz’ fianc’e by telling her the truth about him.
This shows that Marlow is capable of feeling compassion. Darkness has had its effect on Marlow, but it has affected him differently. He has witnessed the horror of it all, and, as a result, he wants no part of that darkness. However, he does realize that he has escaped only because of his ability ‘ to draw back his hesitating foot before he steps over the edge.’ With the use of descriptive words and expressions which build a sense of fear and suspense, Conrad has created a story that keeps the reader wanting to know more about this God-forsaken land and its savage people, but his special use of personification gives life to an otherwise lonely and primitive land. Throughout the entire novel, Conrad spins a web of darkness as he paints pictures of the country, the deeds of people, and the effect that the dark continent has on anyone who visits it. HEART OF DARKNESS is much more interesting because of this motif….
... beyond any restraints that he may have had before. In Kurtz, Marlow sees "the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no ... able to see this internal struggle in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, as Kurtz struggles between his conscience and his tendicies towards ... travel through the wilderness to leave the station that destroyed Kurtz, Marlow comments, "Oh he struggled! he struggled! The wastes of ...