Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, the representation of women is
extremely limited. Conrad's portrayals are extreme stereotypes meant to depict
the entire female gender. Through these extreme stereotypes, Conrad is able
to illustrate his themes of darkness and brutality.
Joseph Conrad depicts
only three main women in his novel: the aunt of Marlow, as well as the mistress
and his fiancee. These roles though limited in their descriptions, are meant
to represent the commonly perceived (as well as extremely stereotypical) positions
of women in society, i.e.: the mother, the whore and the dutiful Lady/virgin.
Conrad describes the aunt as a "dear and enthusiastic soul...ready to do anything,
anything for [Marlow]," (pg. 34). The mistress is described as "savage and
superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately
in her deliberate progress," (pg. 101). While in contrast, Kurtz's fiancee
is described as ready to listen without mental reservation, without suspicion,
without a thought for herself," (pg. 115). These characters are all extremes,
stereotypical in nature and limited, illustrating Conrad's portrait's of brutality,
violence, death and darkness of the unconquered world. Since navigation and
exploration was all done by men these themes are ap
art of the male realm,
and thus can only be understood or is meant to be inclusive by men. As a result,
through these extreme characters of the women, it is understood that women
this brutality would never have occurred if it had been written about women,
because these women do not have and are not capable of these feelings and characteristics.
of the women in Conrad's novella are depicted in an unthreatening manner, easily
dominated and controlled by men. These representations allow the central themes
to be illustrated for the author, showing that they are
of male phenomenons. [continues]
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