Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Term Paper

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Interpretations of Heart of Darkness

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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