Skip Nav

Heart of Darkness

Study Questions

❶Racism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, pp. Conrad is teaching us something extremely important.

Client testimonials

Sample Essay Outlines
Popular Topics
Navigate Guide

As the novel continues, Marlow recognizes that this flaw of not being able to see something for what it is, and in turn, not being able to give it an accurate "label", is indeed "the European way". There are some names given by the Europeans that simply don't fit the characteristic of the object being named.

Marlow points out that the name 'Kurtz' means short in German. However, at Marlow's first glance at Kurtz, he remarks how Kurtz appears to be "seven feet long" Conrad shows us, through Marlow's observation, how Kurtz's name is just a blatant oxy-moron. Marlow recognizes yet another obvious misrepresentation. Marlow meets a man who is called the "bricklayer". However, as Marlow himself points out, "there wasn't a fragment of a brick anywhere in the station" During his voyage, however, Marlow doesn't only observe this misnaming, but realizes the importance of a name.

While overhearing a conversation between the manager of the station and his uncle, he hears Mr. Kurtz being refereed to as "that man" Although Marlow hasn't met Kurtz yet, he has heard of his greatness. He now realizes that by these men calling him "that man", they strip him of all his attributes. When one hears Kurtz, they think of a " very remarkable person" These men are now, by not referring to him by his name, denying Kurtz's accomplishments.

This same idea of distorting a person's character by changing his name is displayed elsewhere. The Europeans apply the terms 'enemy' and 'criminals' to the natives. In actuality, they are simply "bewildered and helpless victims Clearly, the injustice done by the simple misnaming of someone is unbelievable.

After witnessing all of these names which bare no true meaning, as well as possibly degrade a person's character, Marlow understands that he can not continue in his former ways of mindlessly giving random names to something in fear of diminishing the essence of the recipient.

As a result, Marlow finds himself unable to label something for what it is. While under attack, Marlow reefers to the arrows being shot in his direction as "sticks, little sticks", and a spear being thrown at his boat "a long cane" When Marlow arrives at the inner station, he sees "slim posts In truth, these are poles with skulls on top of them.

Marlow can formulate a name even for the simplest of things. Taking a step back and looking at his voyage, Marlow realizes the insignificant, mindless, meaningless 'labels' which the Europeans use to identify with something, and he wants to be able to "give to experience, names that have some substance".

At this point, he is similar to Adam in the Garden of Eden who is "watching the parade of nameless experience" go by. However, Marlow is missing an essential thing which Adam possessed.

As opposed to Adam, who was delegated by G-d to name experiences, Marlow lacked this authority to name. It is Kurtz who will become this authority, and eventually teach Marlow the essence of a name Johnson.

Kurtz is the Chief of the Inner Station. He is a "universal genius, a prodigy, an emissary of pity science and progress" It is Kurtz who will teach Marlow what a name is, for one simple reason The man presented himself as a voice Kurtz was "little more than a voice" 80 , but there was no one with a voice like his. He could speak with remarkable eloquence, he could write with such precision Marlow has heard enough about Kurtz, in this case from his devoted pupil, to know that it is he who can provide Marlow with the authority to offer "correct and substantial names" Johnson.

Indeed, Kurtz gives Marlow everything Marlow is looking for. However, he does it in a very unconventional way. Kurtz teaches Marlow the lesson with his last words.

These last words are Kurtz's own judgment, judgment on the life which he has lived. He is barbarous, unscrupulous, and possibly even evil. However, he has evaluated at his life, and he has "pronounced a judgment upon the adventures of his soul on this earth" Marlow sees Kurtz "open his mouth wideit gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him Kurtz takes everything in.

He takes his life, and puts it all out on the table. Kurtz's last words is his way of teaching Marlow the essence of a name. A name is not merely a label. It is one man's own judgment of an isolated event. However, unlike the Europeans who judge based on already existing principles which they have 'acquired', Kurtz taught Marlow to look inside of himself and to judge based on his own subjective creeds.

While Marlow is recounting the story, he says to his comrades: He must meet that truth with his own true stuffwith his own inborn strength. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty ragsrags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. An appeal to me in this fiendish rowis there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but have a voice too, and for good or evil mine is the voice that can not be silenced This is the lesson which Marlow has learned.

Objective standards alone will not lead one to recognize the reality in something. One can not only depend on anther's principles to find his reality in something because they have not had to bear the pain and responsibility of creating it. Principles are usually acquisitions, which like other things we acquire rather than generate, like clothes are easily shaken off.

The power of speech which will sustain a man is the power to create or affirm for one's self a deliberate, or a chosen belief Bruce Johnson. This judgment must be from one's own internal strengths. That is why Marlow says, "for good or evil, mine is the speech that can not be silenced". As Kurtz has taught him with his own judgment, a judgment of truth overpowers morality. To find one's own reality, one must not rely solely on other people's morality, others people's 'principles' and he must assess his own life.

What Kurtz did is that he showed that regardless of whether the truth is good or bad, one must face up to his reality. He must face up to his own actions even when the conclusion is "the horror", and by doing so, he will find his true reality. Marlow understands that being true to yourself is not following anther's moral code, but being able to judge one's self honestly and uncover their own reality.

It is because of this understanding that Marlow claims that Kurtz's last words is "a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats Despite Kurtz's immoral ways, he is victorious because he didn't run away from the truth; and that is his moral victory.

He is true to himself.! On his voyage, Marlow notices at one of the stations, a picture that Kurtz had drawn when he was there. It is a "sketch in oils on a panel representing a woman draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was sombrealmost black" At the time, Marlow didn't really know what it meant. However, this is a precise representation of Kurtz himself. Firstly, the background was "sombrealmost black". This is a manifestation of Kurtz because his life is full of darkness.

He kills, he steals, and he is worshipped as a god. Kurtz cannot be without blackness and survive. In addition, the picture displays the lesson itself. It is a picture of the lady of justice holding a torch. This is Kurtz's role. Unlike Europe, which imposes their principles upon others, he is merely there to "illuminate" Kurtz is there to expand the peoples minds, to introduce them to a broad new spectrum of reality.

However, he does not impose his own reality upon them. Hence, he is blindfolded in the picture. To him, they make a subjective decision and they find their own truth, regardless of what that truth may be.

That is his lesson. Eventually Marlow realizes that Kurtz's picture was in essence, a self portrait. Is it a senseless accident, result of the crude misinterpretation or gross transformation of the mass media, that the cinematic version of Heart of Darkness is called Apocalypse Now, or is there already something apocalyptic about Conrad's novel in itself? What are the distinctive features of an apocalyptic text? Although the point has been strangely neglected, it is clear that Conrad markedly altered his conception of Heart of Darkness during the period of its composition.

His act of writing was at the same time a It would be interesting to analyze systematically how, out of the heteroglot encounters of fieldwork, ethnographers construct texts whose prevailing language comes to override, represent, or translate other languages. The Women of Heart of Darkness. A Journal of Joseph Conrad Studies 26, no. Conrad's women in Heart of Darkness have bewildered critical commentators as much, perhaps, as his Congo experience bedevils Marlow.

In their initial theorization by Freud, symptoms engage the body's performative registers on several levels: Cambridge University Press, Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a rich, vivid, layered, paradoxical, and problematic novella or long tale; a mixture of oblique autobiography, traveller's yarn, adventure story, psychological odyssey, political satire, symbolic prose-poem, black comedy, spiritual melodrama, and sceptical meditation.

Man can embody truth but he cannot know it. Throughout the text, Marlow insists upon the distinction between truth and lies; between men and women; between civilization and savagery; and, most of all, between Self and Other.

Exotics, Aliens, and Outsiders Therein consists the most elementary formal definition of psychosis: A Journal of Joseph Conrad Studies 32, no. Chinua Achebe makes some grave charges against Joseph Conrad in his well-known analysis of Heart of Darkness. There isn't a single club and messroom and man-of-war in the British Seas and Dominions which hasn't got its copy of Maga. Racism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, pp.

The University Press of Kentucky, True symbolism is where the particular represents the more general, not as a dream or a shadow, but as a living momentary revelation of the Inscrutable. An historian of hearts is not an historian of emotions, yet he penetrates further, restrained as he may be, Conrad, Achebe, and the Critics. A Journal of Conrad Studies 33, no.

I am interested in touching upon numerous concerns raised by Heart of Darkness, all of which radiate around the fraught issue of race and its construction in the novel.

For many Conradians, this issue boils down to the charge of racism leveled against the novel, and Conrad, most prominently by Chinua Achebe. There is often conflict between the white Company men and the African natives. Throughout the novel, skin color is used effectively as a tool of symbolism, specifically when it comes to darkness. I find the description of these natives to be rather racist in terms of skin color.

This passage below from the novel Heart of Darkness is an example of the negative views on race that the Europeans had against the natives. But these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. They were called criminals and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from over the sea. All their meager breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily up-hill.

They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages. The Company saw them as a threat and decided to chain them up making them become battered and weak. They were perceived as uncivilized and evil because of the darkness of their skin color. The natives in Heart of Darkness are treated as objects rather than actual people. The overall theme of darkness is portrayed in the natural setting throughout the novel. Conrad is able to develop this darkness through the ominous and gloomy descriptions of the characters and setting.

His portrayals convey a sense of foreboding leading to a lot of sinister imagery. The dismal surroundings described are parallel with the darkness that has infected Kurtz and the continuous growing of it inside of Marlow. This quote illustrates that the darkness infested in the physical environment can affect ones ability to see the blackness inside their own morals.

The passage below is from the scene in which the steamboat is passing the African natives. Here the members of the company are showing prejudices towards these natives and their savagery. Well, you know, that was the worst of it — this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was jus the thought of their humanity — like yours — the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.

Marlow wants to believe that these natives are in fact inhuman because he wants them to have no relation to him or the Company men.

In reality however, he knows that they are all bonded. There is in fact darkness inside of everyone. This descent into darkness happens to both Marlow and Kurtz. From the beginning of the novel, Marlow and the readers are informed that Kurtz has gone mad. When Marlow finally finds Kurtz he is able to see that his mind has begun to deteriorate and he definitely suffers from madness.

I believe his last words are a symbol of him accepting the darkness that has infected his mind and the darkness that he has caused since coming to Africa.

What are You Studying?

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Many critics, including Chinua Achebe in his essay "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness", have made the claim that Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, despite the insights .

Privacy FAQs

Heart of Darkness essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

About Our Ads

Heart of Darkness (Essay #3), Free Study Guides and book notes including comprehensive chapter analysis, complete summary analysis, author biography information, character profiles, theme analysis, metaphor analysis, and top ten quotes on classic literature. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad (Born Josef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) Polish-born English novelist, short story and novella writer, essayist, dramatist, and autobiographer. The following entry presents criticism of Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness () from to

Cookie Info

Ultimately Heart of Darkness is a story of the pitfalls and perils of greed, lust, and the corruption of ideals and values by the darkness that dwells within all of mankind. It tells of the madness that the greed for riches or power can create within the heart and mind, and that even the best of intentions can become twisted into something evil and oppressive. Works Consulted. Conover, Matt. HEART OF . While in England between and , Joseph Conrad wrote the novella Heart of Darkness. Taking place during the height of European imperialism in Africa, Heart of Darkness follows the journey up the Congo River of Marlow, a steamboat captain. Marlow comes to Africa to escape the strict confines of European society.