It has been said that although Conrad may not have been ‘the greatest novelist, he was certainly the greatest artist every to write a novel’; . I feel that this is an apt description of Conrad’s writing style in Heart of Darkness (1902), as he paints many verbal pictures by using expressive words and many figurative descriptions of places and people. An extensive use of words relating to colour, is evident throughout the novella. The idea of darkness (and light) is emphasized from the title of the novella, and continues to play an important role throughout in the story. My opinion is that Conrad felt that using ‘darkness’; as a recurring theme throughout the story would be an effective tool because of the many connotations of darkness.
Darkness can, for example, represents evil, the unknown, mystery, sadness or fear. Also important is the way darkness and light can be used to represent two opposite emotions or concepts. Light vs. dark can, for example, represent good vs. evil, the civilized vs. the uncivilized, illusion vs.
reality or assumption vs. fact. We know from the start of the novella that the darkness that Conrad refers to is symbolic, because, while the silent narrator aboard The Nellie comments on the many lights emanating from the shore, the lighthouse, the other boats and the setting sun, Marlowe comments that they themselves are in ‘one of the dark places of the earth’; . Therefore we know that Marlowe has his own opinion and explanation of what the darkness is, and if we assume that this story is autobiographical, and Marlowe is a mouthpiece for Conrad, then this explanation actually indicates Conrad’s personal views on what the darkness is.
Throughout his narrative in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Thomas Marlow characterizes events, ideas, and locations that he encounters in terms of light or darkness. Embedded in Marlow's parlance is an ongoing metaphor equating light with knowledge and civility and darkness with mystery and savagery. When he begins his narrative, Marlow equates light and, therefore, civility, with reality, ...
Nigerian novelist, China Achebe attacked Heart of Darkness as racist. He felt that Conrad used the darkness to symbolism the negative character of Africa, and objected to the novel as a manifestation of ‘white racism over Africa’; (Achebe, 1975).
I do not agree with this view of the novella as a purely racist piece of literature. I feel that, although Conrad did live in a time when some forms of racial prejudice were so commonplace that they seemed almost natural, he wrote the novella essentially as ‘an expose of imperialist rapacity and violence’; (Cedric Watts).
Several times throughout the novella he refers to colonialism and white racists negatively. Early in the novella, Marlowe comments that ‘The conquest of the earth…
which mostly means taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it to much’; , thereby condemning imperialism. He also invokes our sympathies in the ‘black shadows of disease and starvation’; and his descriptions of the senseless violence which he witnesses. I also do not agree with another of the common interpretations which explains that Colonialism is and spreads the darkness. This notion is supported by an idea previously stated and explained – that Conrad criticises colonialism and imperialism.
However, when thinking back on when he went to France to sign up for the trip, Marlowe says that the women at the reception area were guarding ‘the door of Darkness’; . This suggests that only once one had travelled through this door would one be exposed to the darkness. Therefore, the darkness is something foreign. Also, there are references to the darkness of London once Marlowe returns from Africa, which leads me to think that the darkness is more like a feeling or emotion which overtakes people once they have had a certain experience than a concept such as colonisation. In the story of creation, dark was present in the world before light was created. Therefore, my view is that in Heart of Darkness, darkness represents the base, elemental nature of the world, while light is what was created by man to cover this.
Psychoanalytic Criticism Psychoanalytic criticism originated in the work of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who pioneered the technique of psychoanalysis. Freud developed a language that described, a model that explained, and a theory that encompassed human psychology. His theories are directly and indirectly concerned with the nature of the unconscious mind. Through his multiple case ...
The darkness is the true nature of the world, while the light refers to technology, religion and social codes which man has created to build upon this. Darkness is such a recurring theme in Marlowe’s narration once he arrives in Africa, because the Africa of the time of the story was, as yet, untainted by the appendages of civilisation. It was only when the white men decided to ‘enlighten the Dark continent’; (web) that the people of Africa were first presented with concepts such as monetary wealth and Christianity. It is stressed to us in the novella that Marlowe hates lies- he says ‘I hate, detest and can’t bear a lie… because it appeals me’; . Therefore he identifies with Kurtz because Kurtz had stopped focusing on the light (artificial Western values, social codes and concepts) and had surrendered to the darkness, which is the way in which the earth truly works, without man’s influence.
Marlowe tells us that when he was a boy, he used to have a ‘passion’; for maps. Different colours on the maps symbolized different places while other places were blank. Nothing on the map was dark, however, because Marlowe was still young and had not yet been exposed to darkness. The map on the wall of the recruitment office was adorned with all the ‘colours of the rainbow’; .
At that time, even the place in Africa where he was going was ‘yellow’; . Only once he arrives in Africa, and is exposed to the power of a land not yet touched by civilisation does he acknowledge the darkness, and he refers to it increasingly as the story progresses. Because they are women, Marlowe’s aunt and Kurtz’s Intended still focus on light because the truth of the universe is hidden from them by the effects of civilisation. Marlowe says that the Romans were ‘man enough to face the darkness’; , thereby insinuating that one had to be a man to be able to confront the darkness. This was probably society’s stock belief at the time of the writing of the novella. Although the reality is that colonial Africa is a place of savagery and brutality, Marlowe’s aunt is thrilled that he is going there.
In many literary works the author uses contrast to display the difference between good and evil. Most often this contrast is between light and dark images. Dark representing evil and light representing good. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the author uses many different medians to display the contrast between good and evil. The different settings display the changing developments of ...
She represents him to the Company as an ’emissary of light’; , thus stressing the idea that he would contribute to the bringing of light to the dark Africa. When Marlowe meets with the Intended, he says that ‘no manipulation of light… could have conveyed the delicate shade of truthfulness upon those features’; , thus intimating that the look on her face was so natural and true that it could never be faked by any form of imposed civilisation. She is described as having ‘fair’; hair, a ‘pale’; face, a ‘pure’; brow and an ‘ashy halo’; . All these references to light when describing her appearance indicates that her civilisation is part of her. As the room grows darker, they delve deeper and deeper into the truth.
Eventually, Marlowe lies to her about Kurtz’s last words because he feels that she would never have been able to deal with the truth, that ‘it would have been too dark, too dark altogether’; . Conrad wrote the novella Heart of Darkness because through his story he shows how two sides of the world could be as different as white and black. Africa was dark – much more natural and closer to the moment of creation than the West, which had tried to progress by creating it’s own light – religion, social beliefs and technology. Marlowe’s journey led him to Kurtz, who existed at the very heart of darkness because he had succumbed to it’s conquering power, and, in Western terms, regressed to the level of the natives in the land. He shows his belief in the triumph of darkness over light by using the word ‘darkness’; it in the title of the book.
This shows that he believes that the way the Western World existed in the time of the writing of the novella was very unstable, and would only sink further into darkness as time passed.