Heart of Darkness By Joseph Conrad


In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, there is a great
interpretation of the feelings of the characters and
uncertainties of the Congo. Although Africa, nor the Congo
are ever really referred to, the Thames river is mentioned
as support. This intricate story reveals much symbolism due
to Conrad's theme based on the lies and good and evil,
which interact together in every man. Today, of course, the
situation has changed. Most literate people know that by
probing into the heart of the jungle Conrad was trying to
convey an impression about the heart of man, and his tale
is universally read as one of the first symbolic
masterpieces of English prose (Graver,28). In any event,
this story recognizes primarily on Marlow, its narrator,
not about Kurtz or the brutality of Belgian officials.
Conrad wrote a brief statement of how he felt the reader
should interpret this work: "My task which I am trying to
achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you
hear, to make you feel-it is above all, to make you
see.(Conrad 1897) Knowing that Conrad was a novelist who
lived in his work, writing about the experiences were as if
he were writing about himself. "Every novel contains an
element of autobiography-and this can hardly be denied,
since the creator can only explain himself in his
creations."(Kimbrough,158) The story is written as seen
through Marlow's eyes. Marlow is a follower of the sea. His
voyage up the Congo is his first experience in freshwater
navigation. He is used as a tool, so to speak, in order for
Conrad to enter the story and tell it out of his own
philosophical mind. He longs to see Kurtz, in the hope's of
appreciating all that Kurtz finds endearing in the African
jungle. Marlow does not get the opportunity to see Kurtz
until he is so disease-stricken he looks more like death
than a person. There are no good looks or health. In the
story Marlow remarks that Kurtz resembles "an animated
image of death carved out of old ivory." Like Marlow, Kurtz
is seen as an honorable man to many admirers; but he is
also a thief, murderer, raider, persecutor, and above all
he allows himself to be worshipped as a god. Both men had
good intentions to seek, yet Kurtz seemed a "universally
genius" lacking basic integrity or a sense of
responsibility (Roberts,43). In the end they form one
symbolic unity. Marlow and Kurtz are the light and dark
selves of a single person. Meaning each one is what the
other might have been. Every person Marlow meets on his
venture contributes something to the plot as well as the
overall symbolism of the story. Kurtz is the violent devil
Marlow describes at the story's beginning. It was his
ability to control men through fear and adoration that led
Marlow to signify this. Throughout the story Conrad builds
an unhealthy darkness that never allows the reader to
forget the focus of the story. At every turn he sees evil
lurking within the land. Every image reflects a dreary,
blank one. The deadly Congo snakes to link itself with the
sea and all other rivers of darkness and light, with the
tributaries and source of man's being on earth (Dean,189).
The setting of these adventurous and moral quests is the
great jungle, in which most of the story takes place. As a
symbol the forest encloses all, and in the heart of the
African journey Marlow enters the dark cavern of his won
heart. It even becomes an image of a vast catacomb of evil,
in which Kurtz dies, but from which Marlow emerges
spiritually reborn. The manager, in charge of three
stations in the jungle, feels Kurtz poses a threat to his
own position. Marlow sees how the manager is deliberately
trying to delay any help or supplies to Kurtz. He hopes he
will die of neglect. This is where the inciting moment of
the story lies. Should the company in Belgium find out the
truth a bout Kurtz's success in an ivory procurer, they
would undoubtedly elevate him to the position of manager.
The manager's insidious and pretending nature opposes all
truth (Roberts,42). This story can be the result of two
completely different aspects in Conrad's life. One being
his journey in the Congo. Conrad had a childhood wish
associated with a disapproved childhood ambition to go to
sea. Another would be an act of man to throw his life away.
Thus, the adventurous Conrad and Conrad the moralist may
have experienced collision. But the collision, again as
with many novelists of the second war, could well have been
deferred and retrospective, not felt intensely at the time
(Kimbrough,124). Heart of Darkness is a record of things
seen and done, Then it was ivory that poured from the heart
of darkness; now it is uranium. There were so many actual
events and facts in the story it made it more an enormity
than entertaining. His confrontations as a man are both
dangerous and enlightening. Perhaps man's inhumanity to man
is his greatest sin. And since the story closes with a lie,
maybe Conrad was discovering and analyzing the two aspects
of truth-black truth and white truth. Both, of which, are
inherent in every human soul.


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