Heart of Darkness – different readings
IN the Novel Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, Marlow’s Journey down the Congo River can be construed to be metaphoric of many different readings including a psychoanalytical interpretation, a mythical interpretation or a Historical reading. The psychoanalytical approach sees Marlow’s Journey to be a journey into the human psyche and inner consciousness as he goes further down the river. In creating this sense, Conrad has used religious symbols, a more dream-like setting further into his journey and the characterisation of Kurtz. The Mythical approach interprets Marlow’s journey as a reverse romance in which Marlow is on a quest for the truth or in other words Kurtz. Conrad uses inversion of light and dark images and symbols to create this impression. Finally, the Historical approach looks at colonialism and the company and its personnel reflecting King Leopold II’s reign of terror on what was called the “white man’s burden” or black people. This interpretation is highlighted by the characterisation of the white and black people Marlow encounters and Marlow’s scathing tone.
Marlow’s journey can be seen as a journey into the inner consciousness which is symbolic of a psychoanalytical reading. At the time, Freud and Nietzsche were both looking at the human condition and the inner psyche, and this novel seems to be a continuation of those ideas as Marlow delves into his inner consciousness in search of truth. The symbol of Marlow as a Buddha at the beginning conveys the idea that he is contemplative and soul-searching. Furthermore the progression of his character into a dream-like world throughout the novel perpetrates this idea of Marlow coming face to face with the human condition. For example, as Marlow nears Kurtz’s station fog comes down giving everything an “eerie, dream-like appearance.” This is further demonstrated in the idea that Marlow is entering a nightmare with “tumultuous and mournful...
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