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 


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