Heart Of Darkness Critical Essay

In one sense, Heart of Darkness is a compelling adventure tale of a journey into the heart of the Belgian Congo. The story presents attacks by indigenous peoples, descriptions of the jungle and the river, and characterizations of Europeans who, sometimes idealistically and sometimes simply for profit, invade the jungles to bring out ivory. The journey into the heart of the Congo, however, is also a symbolic journey into the darkness central to the heart and soul of humanity, a journey deep into primeval passion, superstition, and lust. Those such as the district manager who undertake this journey simply to rob the Congolese of their ivory without any awareness of the importance of the central darkness can survive. Similarly, Marlow, who is only an observer, never centrally involved, can survive to tell the tale; but those such as Mr. Kurtz who are aware of the darkness, who hope with conscious intelligence and a concern for all humanity to bring light into the darkness, are doomed. They are themselves swallowed up by the darkness and evil they had hoped to penetrate.

Joseph Conrad manages to make his point, a realization of the evil at the center of human experience, without ever breaking the pattern of his narrative or losing the compelling atmospheric and psychological force of the tale. The wealth of natural symbols, the clear development of character, and the sheer fascination of the story make this a novella that has been frequently praised and frequently read ever since its publication in 1899. Heart of Darkness is, in style and insight, a masterpiece.

Christened Jósef Teodor Konrad Nacz Korzeniowski by his Polish parents, Conrad was able to write of the sea and sailing from firsthand knowledge. He left the cold climate of Poland early in his life to travel to the warmer regions of the Mediterranean, where he became a sailor. He began reading extensively and chose the sea as a central shaping metaphor for the ideas that were forming in his imagination. He traveled a great deal: to the West Indies, Latin America, Africa. Eventually, he settled in England and perfected (through the elaborate process of translating from Polish into French into English) a remarkably subtle yet powerful literary style.

Criticism of Conrad’s work in general and of Heart of Darkness in particular has been extensive and varied. Many critics concern themselves with Conrad’s style; others focus on the biographical aspects of his fiction; some see the works as social commentaries; some are students of Conrad’s explorations into human psychology; many are interested in the brooding, shadowy symbolism and philosophy that hovers over all the works. It is easy to see, therefore, that Conrad is a distinctively complex literary genius. E. M. Forster censured him as a vague and elusive writer who never quite clearly discloses the philosophy that lies behind his tales. Such a censure ignores Conrad’s notion about the way some fiction can be handled. Partly as Conrad’s mouthpiece, the narrator of Heart of Darkness states in the first few pages of the novel: The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of those misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

The mention of the narrator brings up one of the most complex and intriguing features of Heart of Darkness: its carefully executed and elaborately conceived point of view. Readers can detect (if careful in their reading) that the novel is in truth two narratives, inexorably woven together by Conrad’s masterful craftsmanship. The outer frame of the story—the immediate setting—involves the unnamed narrator who is apparently the only one on The Nellie who is profoundly affected by Marlow’s tale, the inner story that forms the bulk of the novella. Marlow narrates, and the others listen. The narrator’s closing words demonstrate his feelings at the conclusion of Marlow’s recounting of the events in the Congo: Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the Director suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

Since Marlow’s narrative is devoted primarily to a journey to the mysterious “dark” continent (Africa), a superficial view of the tale is simply that it is essentially an elaborate story involving confrontation with exotic natives, treacherous dangers of the jungle, brutal savagery, and even cannibalism. Such a view, however, ignores larger meanings with which the work is implicitly concerned—namely, its social and cultural implications, the psychological workings of the cultivated European mind confronting an uncivilized wilderness, and the richly colored fabric of symbolism that emerges slowly but inevitably from beneath the surface.

Heart of Darkness portrays a perverted version of the “white man’s burden” in the philosophy adopted by the ivory hunters at the inner station. Kurtz’s “Exterminate the brutes!” illustrates the tendency of Europeans to exploit and oppress indigenous peoples. The figure of a gunboat on the coast futilely shelling the jungle itself, rather than any specific target within it, also vividly portrays the useless, brutal, and absurd attitude adopted by a nominally stronger culture toward a nominally weaker culture that it is unable to control.

The psychological characteristics of Marlow’s tale emerge most forcefully in the figure of Kurtz, a man relieved of all social and civilized restraints, who goes mad after committing himself to the total pursuit of evil and depravity. His final cry, “The horror! the horror!” suggests his ultimate realization of the consequences of his life. Marlow also realizes this and is allowed (because he forces restraint upon himself) to draw back his foot from the precipice of madness. The experience leaves Marlow sober, disturbed, meditative, and obsessed with relating his story in much the same way Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ancient mariner must also relate his tale.

On a symbolic level, the story is rich; many books have been written on this facet of the novel. Some of the major symbols employed in the text include the Congo River, which reminds Marlow of a snake as it uncoils into the darkness of Africa and furnishes him with an uncontrollable “fascination of the abomination”; the symbolic journey into Marlow’s own heart of darkness, revealing blindingly the evil of human nature and the human capacity for evil; and the irony of the fact that truth is portrayed as bringing not light but rather total darkness. The entire symbolic character of the work is summarized at the end of Marlow’s tale, when he is forced to lie to Kurtz’s intended spouse in order to preserve her illusions; the truth appears to Marlow as an inescapable darkness, and the novel ends with the narrator’s own observation of darkness.

Heart of Darkness is one of literature’s most somber fictions. It explores the fundamental questions about human nature: the capacity for evil, the necessity of restraint, the effects of isolation, and the necessity of relinquishing pride to achieve spiritual salvation. E. M. Forster’s censure of Conrad may be correct in many ways, but it refuses to admit that through such philosophical ruminations Conrad allowed generations of readers to ponder humanity’s heart of darkness.

critical analysis of Heart of Darkness

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?The Post Colonial Study of Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad was a brilliant author. He was actually a Polish author but wrote in English after settling in England. His Heart of Darkness is a famous novel where he wrote about Belgian colonization in Africa. In this novel Conrad recollect the memories of his journey to the Congo. This novel is a reflection of his experience as well as own interpretation. Conrad also tried to travel around the darkness of human heart in Heart of Darkness.

In this essay I will discuss and explain how the postcolonial study talks about the discrimination of the Orient and how the Occident dominated and discriminated them. I will also focus on the postcolonial plot in Heart of Darkness as well as the consequences of post colonialism in Africa and I will try to find out the reason behind this domination, superiority and inferiority complex of human mind with the help of psychoanalytic theory. I will also analyze the major characters of this novel; Marlow who is the protagonist and Kurtz’s character. And further west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in the sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars. ‘And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth. ’” (Conrad 19). The way of discrimination begins from the very beginning of the story. Here the narrator was describing about African environment that is very dull, gloomy and darker place than the other part of the world. The narrator was describing in such a way as if God has also ignored this place and created as a dark place.

Here the reader can get the flavor of Orientalism. The narrator is an Occident and considering others as inferior. Heart of Darkness talks about Belgian colonization. They started to control African trade sector first. The protagonist named Marlow was a part of this company. The title itself refers that Africa is the Heart of Darkness where two Occident named Marlow and Kurtz went to save Africans and wanted to spread civilization among them. The actual scenario was the opposite. This novel explores the issues of imperialism also. In the text, Marlow is cynically implying that throughout human history, there has always been a whole tribe of people brutally tortured and systematically annihilated in the name of Civilization. The protagonist describes the Congolese as, “not enemies” or “criminals, they were nothing earthly… nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom” (20) implying that their miserable condition was due to the torture and mistreatment of the Europeans” (Alam 2). The Occident considered themselves as superior and others as inferior and neglectful as well.

Marlow called them as “black shadows” (Conrad 34) not as human. He was feeling like dying when he was in the outer station. Then he went toward the station and found a well-dressed white man there. “I shook hands with this miracle, and I learned he was the Company’s chief accountant, and that all the book- keeping was done at this station. He had come out for a moment, he said, ‘to get a breath of fresh air’” (35). Marlow was very astonished to see a white man among those black men. It was like a great wonder for him and that white man tired of the black environment there.

Marlow was surprised to hear like that and was thinking that how can a person get fresh air in that environment. The reader can easily feel that the Occident discriminated the Orient not only physically but also geographically. “Conrad’s indignation at being a white slave and exploited was channelled into an art which indicted Belgian exploitation in the Congo, and his sense of being on the ‘frontier between civilization and savagery’ was transformed into a myth about the barbarism of colonialism’” (Raskin 120-121).

Using the tool of civilization, the Belgian colonizers also tortured and dominated the Africans. Stewart also says about this matter, “It suggests that a naked exposure of the human ego, unshielded by civilization and its self-contents, to a world of savagery presumed to be far beneath it is, in the long evolutionary run, only a baring of the soul to the most primarily rooted human impulses” ( 319). Their primary intension was to educate them about the basic components of civilization but in reality, their intension was something else. A series of historians have since contested the Hobson-Lenin thesis, pointing out that there was little economic interchange between Europe and Africa in the years immediately following parti-tion, and have suggested as an alternative a political motivation for colonization” (Hawkins 289). The Europeans wanted to capture the land for some economical reasons and mostly for political reason. The Occident was racist. They discriminated the Orient based on their skin color. ‘Travers in Conrad’s ‘The Rescue’ and equally emphasized in ‘An Outpost of Progress’ concerning the attitude against ‘the lower races’ preventing the progress of so-called civilization. Waswo’s study and Conrad’s novella both serve to highlight the fact that the process of perpetual colonization necessarily seems to involve racist and imperialist tendencies” (Hansson 3). The Occident believed that they were superior to the Orient epistemologically and ontologically as well. “It has been criticized as racist and sexist by some authors, such as African author Chinua Achebe.

But Achebe is perhaps mistaken to dismiss the novella as a bad book about Africa without acknowledging that it is a very good book about European Imperialism, and more generally about the problem of evil: the heart of darkness in the primitive recesses of the human soul and of life itself, at the heart of civilization, and without spectacle or grandeur in the banal complicity and conformity of most of humanity” (Katkin 585). According to the psychoanalytic theory of the Beginning Theory it is just the people mind that pressurizes one person to think like this and human subconscious and conscious mind are responsible behind this. This essay reads Aidoo’s novel Our Sister Killjoy as a postcolonial revision of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. While both novels have been accused of being racist texts, this essay argues that the implied existence of Conrad’s text is crucial for our understanding of Aidoo’s racist representational strategies” (Hoeller 130). Most of the tendencies of doing crimes are the results of one’s psychopathic mind and obviously his/ her ego. This ego helps the Occident to think them superior.

They thought that they are white in color, which symbolizes purity and divinity; on the other hand, Orient is black in color, which indicates the impurity and inferiority. In reality, it is just the human mind and heart, which can fill up with purity not in physical appearance. In Heart of Darkness the reader can see that the writer mainly focused on the domination over the Orient based on their race, ethnicity etc. “Chinua Achebe explicitly examines the racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

In Achebe’s view, the image set of the book is negative, a portrait of a dark, irrational, timeless place populated by a dehumanized race of savages who were lacking language. This image of Africa was and is as Achebe tells us ‘the dominate image of Africa in Western imagination and Conrad merely brought the peculiar gifts of his own mind to bear on it” (Nassab 10-11). Marlow is the protagonist of the story. He is the storyteller. He can describe a story in such a way that anyone can go easily into the story deeply. In Heart of Darkness, he tells his friends about his journey to Congo River and about the men and women that he met there.

He was very adventurous. He wanted to travel blank places and his journey towards Congo basin was part of his adventurous life. He was curious and skeptical in nature; nothing is simple to him. “Marlow is similarly impressed by his walk through the grove of dying natives, but here we can see Conrad’s genius for artistic economy, as in the one small scene he scores Stanley’s point by inference with unforgettably moving detail, while at the same time demonstrating the devastation caused by these same white intruders, who so readily overstepped the thin line between civilization and barbarism” ( Meyer 336).

Though he was a representative of white man and European civilization he was ignorant of the actual meaning of civilization actually. To him the African black men were just like a shadow; not a human. After reaching the station, he was feeling like he just entered into an animal station. He felt some relief when he saw another white man. to him just the skin color makes another person a normal human like him and the others as animal. “The novel registers the psychological journey into the centre of evil in one’s mind. As Marlow advances through the jungle, his psychological desires are obviously changing” (Nassab 42).

The reader can see the suppression and sublimation in his characters and thoughts. It is the ego, which forces him to think in this manner. “Marlow, like Conrad himself, was changed by the experience of Africa, and returns to Europe cynical and somber with such knowledge of the world as makes it impossible to remain comfortable in the old dispensation” (Katkin 588). Marlow thought that only the Occident has the capability of doing anything but finally he saw that it is not fully true. Kurtz is another important character in Heart of Darkness.

He is the chief of the inner station. “Marlow is initially attracted to Kurtz because the man ‘had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort’ (p. 31). The jealous brickmaker calls him ‘an emis-sary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else’ (p. 25). Kurtz had begun as an idealist, and in his report he had quite sin-cerely proclaimed ‘we can exert a power for good practically unbounded’ (p. 51). The ‘idea’ espoused by Kurtz that Marlow seems to admire, then, is not joining the natives but rather improving them” (Hawkins 288).

He was Marlow’s one of the main interest. “Conrad’s Heart of Darkness creates the terms of its appeal by challenging us to specify the meaning Marlow tries to find in the character of Kurtz. Those readers who write about what they discover in Marlow’s tracks pursue what Marlow himself says he is unable to disclose: the substance, the essence, the details of what it is that Kurtz has done, and what it is that he represents” ( Meisel 20). He wanted to travel Africa just like Marlow in order to spread European civilization and humanizing the uncivilized people.

Another important thing is that he got the taste of immense power in inner station and he wanted to hold his position. He was a multi talented man. He can inspire people with his words and make them feel that he is very genius. He could influence people easily by his talent; even Marlow was very influenced by him. “Marlow remarks that ‘All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,’ and Kurtz’s very existence proves this to be true: Like the Europeans involved in enterprises such as the Company, he epitomizes the greed and lust running wild that Marlow observes in the Congo.

However, unlike the Company, Kurtz is not interested in his image or how he is perceived by ‘noxious fools’ such as the Manager. While Brussels is a ‘whited sepulcher’, a Biblical phrase referring to a hypocrite or person who employs a facade of goodness to mask his or her true malignancy, of hypocrisy, Kurtz is completely open about his lusts”. He was actually very genius indeed; he came Africa with some noble cause; but after settling here he fall into the grave of greed. He colonizes the Congo people by torturing; tempting, killing, tricking etc . Finally he had to pay this by giving his own life also.

He was a representative of so many European colonizers who colonizes other land to make profit for their own company and to reach this goal they did whatever is needed whether it was crucial or not. His character can also be analyzed through the lens psychoanalytic theory. It is the mind or perception, which force one person to do all the things. He was a mysterious character indeed. “Overall Kurtz symbolizes Europe as it is moving towards the end of imperialism when the Europeans recognize their harmful actions” ( Nassab 41). Heart of Darkness is a wonderful creation.

Both Marlow and Kurtz searched for the truth; finally, at the end of their lifetime they could the truth that people can cause havoc with the name of civilization and imperialism as well. “Conrad wrote this novel to examine civilization and as Freud says; ‘ Civilization describes the whole sum of the achievements and regulations which distinguish our lives from those of our animal ancestors and which serves two purposes-namely, to protect men against nature and to adjust their mutual relations” ( Nassab 53-54). People can realize that the darkness is not about one’s skin color; it is people’s heart or mind, which is full of darkness. 2188] Paper outline Joseph Conrad was a brilliant author. He was actually a Polish author but wrote in English after settling in England. His Heart of Darkness is a famous novel where he wrote about Belgian colonization in Africa. In this novel Conrad recollect the memories of his journey to the Congo. This novel is a reflection of his experience as well as own interpretation. Conrad also tried to travel around the darkness of human heart in Heart of Darkness. In this essay I will discuss and explain how the postcolonial study talks about the discrimination of the Orient and how the Occident dominated and discriminated them.

I will also focus on the postcolonial plot in Heart of Darkness as well as the consequences of post colonialism in Africa and I will try to find out the reason behind this domination, superiority and inferiority complex of human mind with the help of psychoanalytic theory. I will also analyze the major characters of this novel; Marlow who is the protagonist and Kurtz’s character. 1. Postcolonial plot Imperialism Orientalism The Occident The Orient Racisim Domination Discrimination Psychoanalytic criticism Secondary supports 2 . Marlow’s character Psychoanalytic view

Thoughts, beliefs and interpretation 3 . Kurtz’s character Multitalented character Influencing nature Secondary supprots Works Cited Alam, Sharlene Nisha. “The Admired and Abhorred in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. ” 1-7. Diss. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Barry, Peter. “Postcolonial Criticism. ” Beginning Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. 185-194. Print. Barry, Peter. “Psychoanalytic Criticism. ” Beginning Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. 92-113. Print. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Dhaka: FRIENDS BOOK CORNER, 2006. 1- 111. Print. Hansson, Karin. Entering Heart of Darkness from a postcolonial perspective”. Psilander Grafiska, 1998. 1-14. Print. Hawkins,Hunt. “Conrad’s Critique of Imperialism in Heart of Darkness”. PMLA 94 (1979): 286-299. Print. Hoeller, Hildegard. “Ama Ata Aidoo’s ‘Heart of Darkness’”. Research in African Literatuere 35 (2004): 130-147. Print. Maier-Katkin, Birgit and Maier-Katkin, Daniel. . “At the Heart of Darkness: Crimes against Humanity and the Banality of Evil”. Human Rights Quarterly 26 (2004): 584-604. Print. Meisel, Perry. “Decentering ‘Heart of Darkness’” Modern Language Studies 8 (1978): 20-28. Print.

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Meyer, Rosalind. “‘…Inside like a Kernel? ’ Literary Sources of ‘Heart of Darkness’”. The Modern Language Review 93 (1998): 330-344. Print. Nassab, Sara Asad. “A Postcolonial and Psychoanalytical Approach to Heart of Darkness”. Department of Languages and Culture, 2006. 1-62. Print. Raskin, Jonah. “Imperialism: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. Journal of Contemporary History 2 (1967): 113-131. Print. Study of Kurtz of Heart of Darkness in a postcolonial perspective. Web. 20 December 2013. http://meetnazmulhasan. wordpress. com/2013/01/08/study-of-kurtz-of-heart-of- darkness-in-a-post-colonial-perspective/

Author: Alfred Gobeil

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critical analysis of Heart of Darkness

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