top-rated free essay

Heart of Darkness

Oct 08, 1999 1020 Words
Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad is a fictional novel with an overflow of symbolism. Throughout the entire novel Conrad uses a plethora of simple colors, objects, and places in order to clarify very complex meanings. By doing this, Conrad is able to lure the reader into a world unlike his or her own: the Congo River, located in central Africa. Although the interpretation of these symbols is so elaborate, the simplicity of each makes it somewhat easy to overlook. A few examples of the many symbols found in Conrad's novel include the jungle, as well as the colors of white and black, better known as the colors of life and death.

In Heart of Darkness, the images of black and white have the usual connotations of evil and good. These pigments are found throughout the entire book. Ironically, although black, the native Africans seem to represent a sort of good by doing what they feel is right. On the other hand, the white foreigners carry themselves with some kind of evil as they exploit the great kindness of the blacks. I guess you could say that the white men were filled with a black hatred inside. Another example is found when Marlow enters the Belgian company's office. Sitting in the office are two women dressed almost completely in black. Marlow is no beginning to understand the seriousness of the journey he is going to make. Even his predecessor dies because of a quarrel over two black hens. The usage of black is almost too much to handle. Another example that I also

remembered from the movie was how Kurtz's pictures were always placed within

a dark ebony back round. Another ironic example is the continued description

of the white ivory. Its beautiful white shine makes it look righteous, even though it really demonstrates a great evil as the elephants were being destroyed along with other people.

Other colors were of importance as well to truly understand the symbolic nature of the story. The plaid patches and trimmings on the Russian's harlequin clothes portray his ever-changing moods and foolish, light-hearted behavior. By simply using a description of clothing, Conrad is able to show us how he tends to stay out of trouble with his befriending nature. The color yellow will usually symbolize some sort of corruption or decay. We first read about yellow as it marks the area of Congo on the map in the Brussels office. The last of the symbolic hues is a dreary pale expression. The pale look of the ivory company's manager denotes death. Pale is thought of as deathly because of a quote in the bible about a pale horse being ridden. Riding that horse is none other than death himself. I also noticed in the movie how the oil paintings that Kurtz drew of his wife contained almost an ill complexion. Her colorless face represents her grief due to the fact that her lover had not returned. The colors of the book give out a certain sense of sadness. Not much joy is present to be found.

Certain objects and places can be considered as symbolic features as well. The amazingly thick jungle in Congo seems to bring about some sort of truth or reality. The explorers or ivory hunters are stepping out of their perfect little world full of riches and wealth, and are entering a place where none of that matters. They find themselves in horrible situation where harsh reality is kicking in. Within the jungle, a tall, dense grass is mentioned a multitude of times. Many of the huts or houses are almost buried in the greens. The working men have to wade through it while burning every bit of their energy. This symbol was also taken from the scriptures of the bible. The bible states, "… they are like the grass: in the morning, it flourisheth; in the evening, it is cut down and withereth." Basically this passage is saying that the men's wickedness, as well as their goodness, is temporary. Like grass, it can grow tremendously, but soon fade only to rise again.

The last of the many symbols I will write about is something that is mainly only described at the very beginning and end of the book. At the very start of the story some type of large buzzing insects are stabbing the dying agent in the accountant's otherwise immaculate office. These flies portray the undergoing of operations by the ivory company's representatives. The size of the flies represent Marlow's reaction to the Congo conditions. He is beginning to realize how immensely dangerous the mission he has accepted is going to be. Towards the final words of the novel, we read of a swarm of small flies streaming upon everything as Kurtz utters his last words. This greatly contrasts the previous insects. One swarm enters in the story's beginning and the other at the end. Perhaps the flies indicate the kind of irritation being felt by Marlow due to the annoyances he comes across in the Congo. At first, his problems seem bigger than life; later, however, they diminish because of the growth in experience and character of captain Marlow.

The sign of a true great writer is the use and manipulation of symbolic meanings. Canrad could have told us the sort of mood or meaning he was attempting to portray at each point in the book, but rather, he decided to use simple objects and colors to show us what he was trying to get across. By letting the reader try to figure out what is being said the story can entail many meanings not even thought of by the author. The reader is able to view the story as he or she pleases. This makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience. A much more enjoyable reading experience leads to fame and fortune for the writer and publisher. Joseph Conrad's usage of symbolism will grant him that fame and fortune.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Heart Of Darkness

    ...Adwoa Bosompim In Heart of Darkness, Conrad conveys Marlowe’s tale of Africa. The Captain begins his tale with his acceptance for a job in Africa no one else wants.  Even though the captain receives warning of the darkness in Africa, he ignores it and soon leaves for his journey. When he soon comes to Africa he sees the Company’s true...

    Read More
  • Darkness in Heart of Darkness

    ...Darkness Every man and woman has a dark side to them. The characters in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are no different. In this novella, a man named Marlow travels into Africa because he wants to fill the “blank spaces’” on the map, but what he encounters there is not at all what he expected or hoped for (Conrad 373). He finds th...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...Student name: David Mier Zhang Student ID: ZHMJD13 Every Coin Has Two Sides The title Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, suggests the endless darkness, however, the foundation of the darkness is light. Also, May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald, literal meaning of the title is opposite from the meaning of the story. When most peop...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...Wilderness in the Heart Of Darkness The wilderness in the Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is much more than just a backdrop for the action of the story but is directly related to the title of the book. Throughout the story and through Marlow’s eyes, the wilderness is its own character and that character represents the darkness in every ...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...1. Some critics believe that in Heart of Darkness Conrad illustrates how ‘’the darkness of the landscape can lead to the darkness of the social corruption.” This statement means that if the environment is dark, then the people in that environment will match the surrounding feeling, which is dark and depressing. For example, if it is a gl...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...Staci Watson Mills AP English 6th April 17, 2012 Heart of Darkness vs. Apocalypse Now Both the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad and the movie "Apocalypse Now" are about one man's journey through Africa and Vietnam. A comparison and contrast can be made between the two. Both have the same themes but entirely different settings. H...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...Darkness Heart of Darkness contains two layers of narration. The outer narrator is a passenger on the pleasure ship The Nellie, who hears Marlow recount one of his "inconclusive experiences" (21) as a riverboat captain in Africa. This unnamed narrator speaks for not only himself, but also the four other men who listen to Marlow's story. He brea...

    Read More
  • Heart of Darkness

    ...Heart of Darkness, a novel written by Joseph Conrad, tells the story of a character named Marlow, who is recalling his journey to Africa down the Congo River to a group of seamen on a boat. The story is being retold by an unknown figure that people refer to as the narrator. Joseph Conrad’s characters are constructed around the ideas that were ...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.