Inaccessibility: Fiction and Miller

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Brook Thomas in his essay Preserving and Keeping Order by Killing Time in Heart of Darkness extends J. Hills Miller’s “unveiling” (Miller 220) of Conrad’s narrative. Miller’s essay Heart of Darkness Revisited demonstrates how Heart of Darkness “belongs to the genre of the parabolic apocalypse” (Miller 217). Thomas responds to Miller’s unveiling “a lack of decisive unveiling in Heart of darkness” (Miller 220) by reading “historically the narrative that Conrad weaves” (Thomas 239) so that we might be able “to come closer to a truth” (Thomas 239). Thomas presents the possibilities of decisive unveiling, which Miller claims, Heart of Darkness lacks. Miller’s questions what makes Heart of Darkness an apocalyptic parable? Subsequently Miller analyzes Conrad’s narrative “in light of these generic classifications” (Miller 207). Thomas is cautious in interpreting Conrad’s narrative and questions the possibility of being able to glimpse into an essential truth by placing the text in historical context. Thomas quotes Miller, to synthesise “Conrad’s fiction in the context of the history of ideas” (Thomas 242), and later on takes up Miller’s suggestion in the evaluation of The Nigger of the “Narcissus” by Conrad to demonstrate that there can be “decisive unveiling” (Miller 220). Although Thomas does not mention Miller’s essay Heart of Darkness Revisited he quotes Miller’s The Disappearance of God and Poets of Reality. In addition to Thomas quoting Miller, both critiques adopt similar approaches in their essays. One of the first passage they quote from Heart of Darkness is Marlow informing us “the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine” (Heart of Darkness p.20) both critiques examine Conrad’s writing and his purpose of writing. Miller’s analysis is that Conrad presents to us the description of “two kinds of stories: simple tales and parables” (Miller 208) and that Marlow’s stories “like the meaning of a parable- is outside, not in” (Miller 208) and goes on to say that the parable is inaccessible. Thomas quotes this passage to agree with Miller that “there is no guarantee that we will penetrate to the essential truth” (Thomas 239) at the same time suggest the possibility to glimpse truth “if we read historically the narrative that Conrad weaves” (Thomas 239). I am convinced that Thomas complicates Millers argument. Miller quotes Marx to define a parable like “the use of real life condition to express another reality or truth not otherwise expressible” he then compares the parable used from the Bible to demonstrate how Conrad’s fiction functions as a parable. Miller proves Heart of Darkness to be a parabolic apocalypse. In reference to the earlier passage from Heart of Darkness of the haze, Miller compares the image of the haze and illumination Conrad creates, with the “case of Jesus’ parable of the sower” (Miller 210) as Conrad uses “realistic and almost universally known facts as the means of expressing indirectly another truth less visible” (Miller 210). Miller further explains that Conrad’s parable becomes not just a way to examine Marlow’s story, consequently to examine Conrad’s narrative itself. Miller quotes Wallace Stevens that “there is no such thing as a metaphor of a metaphor” and moves on to use the Bible and Conrad’s The Nigger if the “Narcissus” to demonstrate inaccessibility of Heart of Darkness. Using the parable of the sower Miller explains: “If you understand the parable you do not need it. If you need it you cannot possibly understand it” (Miller 210). Likewise Heart of Darkness based on the facts of History and Conrad’s life is used to express “the evasive and elusive truth underlying both historical and personal experience” (Miller 210) being a parable would fail to illuminate one...
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