Heart Of Darkness 13 Essay, Research Paper
In literature, contrasting places are used by certain authors as a way of representing opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of the work. We see this used in Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as he applies the jungles of Africa, and Europe to develop the concept of “civilization” and “the heart of darkness” respectively. Conrad is attempting to explain how even the most cultured individual can face a decision of morality and ethics when put in a questioning situation like Kurtz, one of the only decent men sent into the jungle to help the natives, is forced to answer.
Europe and Africa differ in many ways, obviously by location, but more importantly, moralistically, how developed they are, and how “civilized” they had become. “Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world.” (50) This passage is describing the way a certain group of people lived in the jungle. They pushed aside their morals and ideals to turn over a profit in this undeveloped land where they couldn’t be stopped because of the lack of laws and consequences. In Europe, where people follow rules and regulations, these men are nothing, but in the jungle they are able to shine.
This leads me to decide what I believe each of these locations represents. “We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” (58) That is exactly what the jungle was to me, the heart of darkness. It was where the untamed beasts came out, where the animals as well as people had to fight and kill to survive and there was no police or courts to help you. Europe represents a place of inhibitions and virtue. Somewhere where people do not have to be scared and where there is civilization to keep you in line so that you don’t drift into an unruled state of conscienceness.
Furthermore, I am lead to explain the meaning of the locations on the novella itself. Kurtz was a very respectable man with visions and aspirations of great success. He could have made his fortune elsewhere, but he chose to impact the world by going right for the gold. Kurtz was drawn into the jungle with plans to civilize the natives. His plans were soon ruined as he became “hollow at the core” (98) lacking self-control and basic morals and beliefs. The jungle seemed to pressure Kurtz into becoming one with it as it sucked him in and took his soul and his future. “He hated sometimes the idea of being taken away-and then again…” (107) He thought of this wilderness as his home, and the people his people, and the land his land. In the end, all that was left of Kurtz before his death was an over dominant power-monger with an empty heart. “Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge?” (118) He must have since his final words were, “The horror! The horror!” (118), as he was sent away to his eternal damnation.
In closing, the affect of different settings on the novella Heart of Darkness have had a profound affect on the meaning of the work. Deep in the jungle was an escape from everyday inhibitions brought about by the lessons learned in the educated society. Luckily, most of us are able to play by the rules and keep our precious sanity, but unfortunately Kurtz lacked the limitations taught to him by his European lifestyle needed to hold himself together and stay “civilized” in his very own nightmare, the African Jungle.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York, Bantam Books. March, 1981.
All references refer to this edition.