Heart Of DarknessSymboliszm Essay Research Paper Joseph

Heart Of Darkness-Symboliszm Essay, Research Paper

Joseph Conrad s use of light and darkness to represent good and evil in the Heart

of Darkness helps in developing the theme and the plot of the novel. Conrad uses the

symbol of light and darkness repetitively throughout the novel in order to disclose his

insight to the reader; Conrad uses light and darkness when referring to the Thames and

Congo river, the skin color and hearts of the whites and blacks, and the black mistress and

the Intended.

Conrad s use of light and darkness is evident from the opening of the novel. The

story opens on the tranquil Thames River aboard the cruising yawl called the Nellie. All is

calm on the water as the lights of London twinkle around the boat. The Thames River,

which is seen as calm, civil and bright, is an obvious contrast to the Congo River that

Marlow navigates in Africa. The Congo is full of darkness and fractiousness. Ironically,

the bright Thames is described similarly to the dark Congo. In the closing lines of the

novel, the Thames seems to be flowing “into the heart of an immense darkness ( ). During

the onset of the novel, in which none of Marlow s story is disclosed, the narrator is

ignorant to the horrors of European imperialism, and he subsequently describes the

Thames as bright and lit. However, during the closing of the novel, in which the startling

cruelty of the Europeans is divulged, the narrator describes the Thames as strikingly

different: immensely dark. Through the use of lightness and darkness Conrad inveighs

that regardless of where the white man exists, in civilized London or deepest Africa, he

seems to bring darkness: inhumanity to his fellow man.

Conrad uses light and darkness in context of the color of skin of the whites and

blacks, as well as the corresponding good and evil of their hearts. In contrast to the greed

and cruelty of the white men in Africa, who voraciously and recklessly seize ivory at any

cost to human life, Conrad depicts the black natives as having more self-control. The

Manager is starving the cannibals on board Marlow’s steamer to death, and although they

eagerly eye the body of the dead helmsman and also the physique of the plump Russian,

they restrain their native urges and do not attack the living or the dead. In a similar

manner, the savages along the Congo do not attack the steamer bearing the greedy

Europeans even though they know the intent is to be evil and destructive. It is only a white

man s command, at the urging of Kurtz, that the natives attack the steamer. It is

intentionally ironic that the black man in the novel has a purer (light) heart than the white

man, whose heart is callous, cruel and baleful (dark).

The two women in Kurtz’s life are also described with the use of light and

darkness. Kurtz s black mistress in Africa is very demonstrative, wearing bright clothing

and jewelry and acting in a loud, wild manner, clearly displaying strong emotions. In

contrast, Kurtz’s Intended in Belgium is fair, mild-tempered, and draped in black. The

brightness and passion of Kurtz s black mistress are revealed from her bright attire while

the passiveness of Kurtz s intended is evident from her dark clothing. However, despite

their differences in appearance and temperament, the love they feel for Kurtz is very

similar. The white Intended s attire of black shows her bond with the black woman, while

the black mistress s bright clothing and jewelry display this common bond as well; inherent

in both is a love for Kurtz.

The use of the symbols of light and darkness assist in developing many major

themes in the Heart of Darkness. Many of these themes, if not grasped by the reader

through the use of symbols and other literary devices, generate a misinterpretation of the

novel. Therefore, the allegations deeming Conrad racist are merely the result of ignorant

readers who do not comprehend the style of writing which he employs.


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