Heart of Darkness

Topics: Light, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad Pages: 4 (990 words) Published: June 12, 2014
Heart of Darkness Essay
Light and dark imagery is one element most commonly used in literature, and has held specific symbolic meanings for hundreds of years. Simply stated, light generally symbolizes good, while darkness symbolizes the complete opposite, evil. More specifically, Conrad uses detailed imagery of light and dark to show that white men can in fact be more savage than the natives. While the contrast of light and dark, white and black, and good and evil is a common theme in his novel, Conrad reverses the meanings of the two. In his story often the light is viewed as more menacing and evil than the darkness, and the white characters more spiteful than the black. In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses light and dark imagery and the reversing of their regular meanings as a main focal point throughout the novel. Conrad establishes throughout this the theme that not everything is as it seems.

Conrad uses light imagery as a symbol of civilization. Darkness is defined as the absence of light just like the black jungle is defined as the absence of white man’s civilization, a civilization full of corruption and evil. Conrad’s first description of Brussels is an example of this. “In a very few hours I arrived at a city that always made me think of a white sepulcher.” It is significant that Conrad describes the building as a white coffin, because the job there is sending men out to retrieve ivory, ultimately resulting in their death. This cycle of evil begins and ends in this town. Describing the town as white is misleading, because the town holds an obvious feeling of death. Conrad makes it clear that this is a deception that the darkness of the jungle does not contain. When Marlow approaches dying slaves in the darkness of the jungle, he states: “They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, - nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.” The natives of the darkness are...
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