Joe Conrad Essay Research Paper Joseph Conrad

Joe Conrad Essay, Research Paper

Joseph Conrad was a very talented author. He started writing at the age of thirty-two, and began

telling many tales of his life on the sea. In his youth he was a sailor and traveled to many places

such as the Orient, and the Congo. It are his experiences on the Congo that serves as his primary

source for his story The Heart of Darkness. This book was actually a story of a man, Charles

Marlow, telling the story of his experience in Africa. While in Africa, Marlow’s attitude towards

life changes as can be seen in the following excerpts from the book.

"We live in the flicker-may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling!" (68). When

Marlow gives that quote, he has not yet started his story. He is on a ship after a bad storm, and is

about to begin. This particular quote has a zest to it. It tells one to live every moment to the

fullest because life is but a flicker. This quote also tells the reader that Marlow wants to live a

long life. After finishing the book, his statement seemed a bit strange because Marlow’s tone

became less enthusiastic at the end. However, Marlow survived through the experiences he told

in his story. If he is still able to look back at his life and say, "may it last as long as the old earth

keeps rolling!," then he must make the most out of it, and not let a few bad experiences change

his attitude towards it.

I couldn’t help asking him once what he meant by coming there at all. ‘To make

money of course. what do you think?’ he said, scornfully. Then he got fever, and

had to be carried in a hammock slung under a pole…(86)

This quote tells the reader much about the type of men that went to Africa. Most went

only for the money-not giving a second thought to their health and safety. This particular man

got deathly ill, and still was concerned only for money. Conrad was making a statement in this

quote that too many people today do things only for money. Nobody works because they have a

passion for what they do. People are too willing to put their lives on the line just to make a little

money. Marlow was disgusted when the man snapped at him. Marlow he went to Africa because

he had desired to do so since he was a little boy. He was an explorer at heart, and did not risk his

life for money. People should follow their heart, not the money, and go where it takes them.

"I don’t like to work-no man does- but I like what is in the work- the chance to find

yourself." (97). In this quote, Marlow takes his first steps aboard his ship, and is overwhelmed

by all that needs to be done. His ship had sunk before he had arrived in Africa, and he had to

live in a station for two months while his ship was brought back to shore for repairs. His

comment on work shows the reader how much Marlow enjoys every aspect of life, much like

the first quote. When someone works, he learns about himself. He learns what he is capable of

doing, how quickly he can do it, and also how well he is able to perform the task. When Marlow

stepped on his ship, he not only saw a crisis, but also an opportunity to learn about how well he

could perform in his new environment. This quote also expresses Conrad’s view on work and

money just as the previous quote did-one should work not purely for the money, but for the

chance to learn something about oneself.

As the story progressed, and as Marlow told of how he traveled through the Congo, the

story became more creechy. Often times, Marlow would give long wordy descriptions of a slave

who was suffering, or a shipmate who was sick. He also changed as the story developed. In this

quote, "We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.," (105) Marlow shows this

changing mood. Surrounded mostly by greedy men and tortured slaves, and no longer near

civilization, Marlow became a bit more withdrawn. "the heart of darkness" refers not only to the

darkest of the African Congo, but also to the soul of man. As man becomes separated from

civilization, and enters into a world he knows little about, he changes. His views on the world,

and life, change- as do his attitudes towards others. In his tale, Marlow conveyed well to his

fellow shipmates how he felt as he delved deeper into the unexplored world.

"The mind of man is capable of anything- because everything is in it, all the past as well

as the future." (106). Taken out of context, this is a very positive quote. It makes man seem

special, and almost god-like. "…man is capable of anything…," that is very uplifting. However,

in the context of the story, this quote refers to how a man will act in a situation. This quote

comes near the middle of Marlow’s tale. The jungle was silent for a while, and then a blood

curtling scream was yelled somewhere. Silence then resumed, and everybody on Marlow’s ship

was feeling a different emotion. Many of his shipmates were scared, thinking that evil spirits

were near. Others were angry, believing that they were going to be attacked. Marlow himself

was curious. He wanted to know who had screamed, and where that person was. This quote

expresses his belief that the mind’s of different people will act differently based on what has

happened in their past. "…the past as well as the future.," this part of the quote states that people

act based upon their experiences in the past. The future refers to how they think things will turn

out. If they had a bad experience with height, for example, then that refers to their past. If they

believe that they are going to fall off a high place, that is the future. Therefore, if a man is high

up in a tree, he will be frightened because he had a bad fall before, and because he believes that

he will have a bad fall again.

So, while Joseph Conrad may seem somewhat wordy, and overdone, his messages and

themes are not. It is those themes that makes the reader continue to wade through Conrad’s

heavy description, to get to his powerful messages. Many of the subjects that he deals with in

The Heart of Darkness are bleak, and melancholy. However, through the use of the character

CharlieMarlow, Conrad is able to express to the reader that even though life may sometimes be

difficult and painful, it is still great. "We live in the flicker-may it last as long as the old earth

keeps rolling!"

Conrad, Joseph. The Heart of Darkness. New York: Signet Classic Publishers, 1983


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