Inspired by personal experiences during his journey to the Congo in the late 1800s, Joseph Conrad explores the idea of an internal darkness that lurks in all of us, which thrives when isolated from the laws and conventions of society. This is also seen in the book by Norman Mailer “The Castle in the Forest,” where evil is investigated from a different perspective; where darkness is born in the person, rather than developed. In Norman Mailers book, an individual’s decent into evil is narrated and explored by an observer who later takes the form of the devil, whereas in “The Heart of Darkness”, the story is told from the viewpoint of a character whose western conventions are worn away by his experiences in the Congo; he views the white mans’ inhumanity to the natives and how cheaply their life is valued.
In Joseph Conrad’s novel we can see an immediate effect of isolation on Marlow and his group when entering the ‘Heart of Darkness’. A place void of civilities provokes an animalistic reaction in people otherwise considered normal and respectable in Europe. “One of these fellows should be hanged for an example.” as said in response to a trivial incident when their journey down the river had just began. Almost immediately the setting begins to affect the behaviour of those on the boat, causing them to consider decisions normally considered evil. James Topham commented on the upsetting nature of taking a “European man of sophistication to something far more frightening.” .His reaction posits the concept that a situation which induces a constant state of fear combined with freedom from laws can create such a reaction in the most mundane of people.
On arrival at the outer station, Marlow, the protagonist of Joseph Conrad’s novel is immediately presented with the madness of colonialism. Marlow describes his acquaintance with “the devil of violence,” of greed and “the devil of hot desire,” in his past; and is therefore surprised by the image of the “weak-eyed devil” that surrounds him at the Outer Station. Marlow describes the white men who have enslaves the native Africans as devils; an embodiment of evil. However, he also describes them as “flabby,” their motiveless cruelty is incomprehensible malevolence to him. His intelligence shows the reality, rather than the feigned good that these same men think they are bringing to the natives. Critic Hunt Hawkins suggested that this showed the “pure selfishness” in believing that the “civilizing work” in Africa is anything but a “justifiable idea.” The idea of a tangible evil develops throughout the novel. The same motif runs through Norman Mailers novel ‘The Castle in the Forest.’ The narrator names himself as a “devil” following the “Evil One at the moment of Adolf’s conception. The names of the devil in this book increase with each section, hinting towards Hitler’s constant watch by a devil and its influence on him as his evil develops. As Paul O’Prey suggests, “the 'impenetratable' becomes a central theme."
As though foreshadowing the number of deaths in the novel, at the beginning of the novel Marlow shows his indifference to a death of a man that frees up a position for him to achieve his ambitions. The Company received news that one of their native captains had been “killed in a scuffle with the natives.” Marlow almost rejoices in this man’s murder and shows little sympathy for him if it results in his acceptance into the company. Marlow only seems to face the reality of death when he witnesses a man’s passing first hand; he describes a white flicker in the “depths” of the “orbs,” which “died out slowly.” Marlow stumbles upon the outcome of the Europeans evil when faced with the dying native, and yet he ignores it to protect his position of respectability. As the Heart of Darkness is based around Conrad’s own disastrous...