Opposition of Light and Dark in "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

Topics: Light, White people, Black people Pages: 3 (1339 words) Published: November 28, 2011
The use of the word “darkness” in the title of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness immediately alludes to its relevance to the story, but in an unexpected way. While the contrast of light and dark, white and black, and good and evil is a common theme in Heart of Darkness, Conrad essentially reverses the meanings of what is “light,” or good, and what is “dark,” or evil. Heart of Darkness is about the penetration of a corrupt light into darkness, and the consequences that result when the purity of the darkness is tainted. In this work, the light is often viewed as more menacing and evil than the darkness, and the white characters more corrupt than the black characters. One of the biggest ways he contrasts the two is in physical location. Conrad uses light as a symbol of civilization. Just as darkness is defined as the absence of light, the black jungle represents the absence of the white man’s civilization – a civilization marked by corruption and evil. Conrad’s description of Brussels in is an example of how he uses simple detail to convey a much deeper meaning. “In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always made me think of a whited sepulcher” (Conrad, p.7). It is significant that Conrad describes the building Marlow departs from as a “whited sepulcher” (white tomb), because the offices in that building are driven by greed and their job is sending men to their almost certain deaths. The white men in the white town send sailors in search of their white prize: ivory. This cycle of evil begins and ends in this town. Describing the town as white is deceptive, because the town itself possesses a feeling of death. This symbolizes the deception of all the sailors who come to this town in hopes of finding fortune in the ivory industry and are instead sent to their deaths. Conrad makes it clear that this is a deception not found in the darkness of the jungle, but instead in the white, civilized city. When Marlow approaches dying slaves in the darkness of a shaded...
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