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Heart of Darkness Critical Essay

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Heart of Darkness Critical Essay

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Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, is a work of complexity. “His stories often represent and suggest more than they say” (Skinner). Conrad gives the novel a perplex side through his tactfully written words. This unique language that Conrad uses gives a sense of duality to many phrases in the novel. The double meanings of much of the language that Conrad uses contribute to a reoccurring aspect of the novel, which is that often times there is far more substance to something than appears on the surface. This theme is played out in the novel through the setting and through the two main characters, Marlow and Mr. Kurtz.

The novel takes place right in the heart of Africa, down the long and windy Congo River. The river in the setting is a crucial component of the novel because it brings a sense of darkness. “Conrad manages to hint at the darkness beyond the senses and to represent the experience of struggling with the impossibility of existential revelation in various ways, in terms of both content and form,” because not only does he describe the river’s topography, but also describes the river as having a mind of its own (Skinner). When describing the river, Conrad writes, “the long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances”(Conrad). This description of the river creates an image of a vast and gloomy river. However, Conrad’s use of personification gives the river a personality, as if it is vulnerable to the dark surroundings that it’s engorged within.

In the novel, Marlow’s spoken words also possess a sense of duality. On the outside, Marlow seems like a composed gentleman, who takes little regard for emotions. He speaks in a matter of fact manner, describing everything that he sees in its purest form. When conveying his thoughts about Kurtz he says ,“He was just a word for me. I did not see the man in the name any more than you do”(Conrad). Marlow’s description of Kurtz at first seems merely a factual statement,...

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