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Heart of Darkness

By carleyrodrigues Apr 06, 2013 638 Words
ENGL-2767
Heart of Darkness
Carley Rodrigues

Heart of Darkness: Metaphor Analysis

Joseph Conrad uses symbolism to enhance the main theme of the novel, Heart of Darkness, by setting certain symbolic elements in opposition to contrasting ones. In order to achieve this, he relies heavily on metaphors. Conrad's theory: when men are taken away from civilization that the true darkness of a man's heart is righteously discovered and the "savage" within takes over, was shown through Conrad's use of irony and poetic expression . Conrad's metaphorical use of writing in Heart of Darkness allows an eloquent yet clever approach to showing Marlow's experiences of British Imperialism upon the Congo.

Heart of Darkness is embedded with complex layering of interconnected and overlapping symbols. One of them being the Congo River, the means in which the British found there way to Congo and remains their main way of transportation throughout the novel. It is in the beginning pages that Marlow associates the Congo River to a coiled snake. Thus, exhibiting a symbol of danger, and readiness to strike at anytime. You see this theme as he explores the dangers in Congo, however most of the dangers are the British Imperialists themselves.

Another very hidden metaphoric use within Heart of Darkness is the ivory. Ivory is the main reason the British Imperialists travel to Congo. Ivory as it self, is very simple and pure, however the want for it ruins the purity in the first place and the means of inquiring it are extremely horrid. Thus, showing that ivory is a sign of not only the greed the british have but also the purity and the beauty of the congo before the british reached it.

It is not only the Ivory that contrasts congo and the lust the British have for taking control of the land. The intended (Kurtz’s Fiancé), symbolizes all the values and morales the British were “intended” to bring to the Congo. However, we can see that these so called “values and morales” were never brought to the people of Congo and the crave for Ivory overcame the only good left in Congo: the indigenous people.

Kurtzs painting is feasibly one of the most metaphoric descriptions within the novel. The image of a blindfolded women holding a torch represents more of the book than most would have thought. Readers may be reminded of the blindfolded symbol of justice. In this way, the painting can allude to the tremendous injustices that take place at the hands of the Europeans.  But the figure also represents European colonization.  The torch is the "light" of culture that Europeans are supposedly bringing to the region, while the blindfold represents the "blind" eye they must turn to accomplish their activities. 

Conrad's use of metaphors in Heart of Darkness was no mistake. This helps Conrad make readers think about the larger questions within the novel – about the nature of obsession, ambition, darkness, and madness. Indeed, readers may happen to notice that Conrad tends to abstract often, focusing not on the concrete details of Marlow's journey through the Congo River, but instead on his wandering thoughts and his deep, almost philosophical contemplations. Nonetheless, each significant object, like “the intender” or the “ivory”, has multiple levels of meanings that one must dive into in order to understand. Conrad writes intentionally ambiguous, placing more responsibility on the reader to form his or her own conclusions about events within the novel, rather than relying on the narrator. "It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me," but it was "not very clear either. No, not very clear" (p. 21).

Because of its multiple layers of meaning and unrelenting ambiguity, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is likely to leave readers with the same thought Marlow, the novel's narrator, has about his own story. Not very clear.

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