Heart of Darkness: a Heros Journey

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Heart of Darkness: A Hero’s Journey

In the literary classic, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad sends his hero embarking on a quest that parallels that of what Joseph Campbell refers to as “the Hero’s Journey” in his seminal work of comparative mythology, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, where Campbell examines the journey of the archetypal hero in 12 separate stages. Almost all of the stages canvassed in Campbell’s work are present in the novella Heart of Darkness. We are guided throughout Marlow’s journey by an anonymous passenger listening to Marlow’s tale, as well as Marlow himself. As Marlow starts his journey and navigates his way into the Congo, the cruelness of human nature and finally comprehension, the reader witnesses an unforgettable journey into the depths of the darkest part of our human heart. Marlow’s birth and childhood mimics the typical upbringing of a hero; the general absence of any remarkable activity and in fact seems quite ordinary, and is rarely touched on by Campbell. In the next stage of Marlow’s journey, a Supernatural Helper is required. Although he thinks her naïve, Marlow’s Aunt represents the Supernatural Helper, and uses her influence to gain Marlow a position on the boat. Marlow describes her as “determined to make no end of fuss to get me appointed skipper of a river steamboat" (Conrad 7). Near the beginning, Marlow is greeted and led into a room by a duo of hushed women working with dark wool; this duo is thought to resemble the Fates in Greek Mythology, who determine the lives of Gods and men with the spinning of their wool. Journeying to Africa is Marlow’s Special World. Having not been fully discovered by man at the time Heart of Darkness was written; Africa is the Special World that Marlow begins his journey with by venturing into the unknown. His Call of Adventure is the “snake” of the Nile. After being led into the room, he immediately fixes on a map that features Africa with a serpent-like flourish. Marlow speaks of...
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