Heart of Darkness

Topics: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, Charles Marlow Pages: 11 (4417 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Visions of Light Vs Darkness
When Joseph Conrad composed Heart of Darkness he created a literary masterpiece which embodied the essence of light contrasting with darkness. Throughout the novel Conrad constantly utilizes the images of light and dark and uses them to mold a vision, which the reader is then able to use to decipher the literal and metaphorical meanings of the novel. As Conrad said, " my task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel- it is, before all, to make you see." (Crankshaw 34) In Heart of Darkness Conrad makes the reader "see" by absorbing into every aspect possible of the book images of lightness and darkness. The light and dark images of the novel contrast not only each other but them selves allowing the reader to envision the struggle one encounters once they have met with the darkness in their heart.The setting, symbols, and the characters each contain light and dark images create the center theme of the novel. The physical setting of the novel plays a major role in the journey through Heart of Darkness in both a physical or literal sense as well as in the metaphorical journey through one's own heart. Each and every aspect of the setting can be paralleled to darkness and unknown aspects of one's own self. This aspect provides for the metaphorical ways of interpreting the novel. The novel opens on the deck of a large sailing vessel called the Nellie. As the reader is introduced to each character onboard the ship the sun is continuing its decent and shortly all will be exposed to the utter darkness brought upon with the approach of night. Marlow then begins the journey, which will bring the reader into the far reaches of the African Congo. This beginning scene is the first use of the darkness. These images are used to foreshadow the mystery of what lies ahead for Marlow on his journey. Marlow uses the first images of light verses the dark or the civilized verses the uncivilized when he imagines what the past must have been like on the Thames Estuary: …Light came out of this river since- you say Knights? Yes; but it was like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in a flicker-may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. (Conrad 7)

Within this narrative paragraph Marlow sets the tone for the rest of the novel. He speaks of what culture of people brought civilization or light to Europe, as he describes it, "Light came out of this river…". Within this paragraph Marlow reveals one of his greatest fears. This is the thought of how uncivilized man could survive in the dark time when there was no technology or sophisticated people. Marlow then goes on to discuss how short and meaningless our lives really are compared to the light of all life and history. Another important aspect of the paragraph is the use of the word, "knight" representing nobility accomplished during the flicker of civilization. It is not only what Marlow says that makes him fit in with the solemn setting but it is also his appearance: Marlow is pointedly described as sitting in the ‘pose of Buddha,' suggesting that he has been the recipient of a weird Enlightenment, which he is impelled to share with his listeners. (Bennett 76) Within the story Marlow narrates to the crew and the reader by taking "his listeners" back into the darkness of yesterday. As Marlow approaches the African coast, the reader is able to visualize the dusting of colonies left behind by great explorers. These colonies barely survive; they neither expand nor retract as the years continue to pass by. The light of civilization obviously does not belong in a place as blackened with uncivilized cultures as in Africa. The light has been unable to penetrate the darkness. Once locked within the country Marlow finds his surroundings extremely harsh: The Congo is described as a place of intense mystery whose...
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