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Heart of Darkness, The Road, and The Things They Carried

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Kayla McBride

on 22 September 2014

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Transcript of Heart of Darkness, The Road, and The Things They Carried

The tone in Heart of Darkness, The Road, and The Things They Carried is similar because in all three books the tone is intense and has a hint of darkness.
Mood and Imagery
All three books share a common mood of darkness and hopelessness. At some point all of these books give you a feeling of how fragile life is and how you can't give up the will to keep going. This is truly evident in all of the books. In The Road they had to keep "carrying the fire", in The Things They Carried you have to keep your wits even in the scariest, most horrifying of times, and in Heart of Darkness Marlow faces unspeakable horrors on his journey that questions European morals and civilization itself.
Mood and Imagery (Cont.)
A symbol that comes up in Heart of Darkness is fog. In a way fog is like darkness, it makes it hard to see and distorts your vision. Marlow encounters fog as he goes down the Congo. It represents unknown and unseen danger. After a think fog Marlow and his companions were attacked by natives. Unseen danger might also refer to the danger of Kurtz, the lasting impression that he made on Marlow throughout the years even after he returned to Brussels. Fog makes the mood ominous .
Mood and Imagery (Cont.)
Types of Characters (Cont.)
The protagonists in The Road are the man and the boy. They are more broadly drawn characters considering you don't know their names or a lot about them. They are more symbolic. The father is symbolic of choices that people make in order to protect those you love. He makes decisions based on their health and how much food they have. Throughout the book the father contemplates on killing the boy. There really is no life for the boy on earth, so would it be best to kill him now, or to let him live a life of no hope? The boy is symbolic because he represents the innocence of a child. He doesn't want to hurt anyone and wants to make sure they're still carrying the fire. He feels that it is his job to make sure they don't become bad guys. They are more like the Shakespearean idea of a tragic hero because their travel down the road is hopeless and you know at some point that they are going to die one way or another. An archetype to describe the father would be a "father-figure". Throughout the book he looks out for the boy and puts the boy's interests above himself. An archetype to describe the son would be the "kid growing up". An example would be when he throws away the flute his dad made him.
Types of Characters
The protagonist in Heart of Darkness is Marlow. Marlow is a realistic character. In Part One of the book you learn about how he was interested in travel since his childhood. I can't see him being any different than any other person from his time. Marlow is like the Shakespearean idea of a tragic hero because his degree of curiosity and will to keep traveling deeper into the Congo to meet Kurtz led to the most horrifying moments of his life. It also led to him getting very ill and becoming "unsound" in the eyes of the Company. An archetype to associate with Marlow would be the "defiant-hero". I say "defiant" because he is the hero in the novel, but his goals and what motivates him are different than all of the other ivory-seeking Europeans.
An important symbol in The Road would be the road that the father and son take south. The road represents their hope for survival. It is their only way of retreating from the harsh winter and reaching a place where they can let down their burdens, if only for a little while. They also depend on the road to lead them to places where they can find food and shelter from the weather and bad guys.
Mood and Imagery (Cont.)
These books portray scenes and landscapes in a way that makes you think you are actually there.
Mood and Imagery (Cont.)
A symbol found in The Things They Carried would be the man that O'Brien killed. The way he remembers the man he killed is symbolic of his guilt of carrying out the act of throwing the grenade. The way O'Brien describes the injuries on the man that he killed is symbolic of the brutality of war itself. War is brutal in a sense that you have to kill others in order to keep yourself alive.
Heart of Darkness
The Road
The Things They Carried

Tone (Cont.)
Heart of Darkness and The Road are similar because in Heart of Darkness you are disconnected through embedded text. In The Road you are disconnected throughout the whole book because you never learn the names of characters and most of the background information. For both the syntax is foggy and empty at times.
By being disconnected in The Road this makes the diction empty and dead. The syntax is short and choppy. All of this adds to McCarthy's tone conveying a dead world full of people who are basically the "walking dead".
By being disconnected in Heart of Darkness this makes the diction dark and gives you a sense of impending doom. This helps convey the tone and character Conrad is trying to accomplish because being disconnected makes the book more horrific and intense.
"Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf - then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. About three in the morning some large fish leaped, and the loud splash made me jump as though a gun had been fired. When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night. It did not shift or drive; it was just there, standing all around you like something solid."
(Conrad 55)
"He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it."
(McCarthy 130)
"Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore. You're a shadow. You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believe in. You know you're about to die. And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait."
(O'Brien 200-201)
Tone (Cont.)
The tone of The Things They Carried is different than Heart of Darkness and The Road because even though it is serious at times, the tone is more lighthearted. You feel connected because it feels as if O'Brien is personally telling the story to you. The syntax he uses is that of everyday conversation. This adds to his tone and character because it is just like comfortable conversation and storytelling.
"Right here, now, as I invent myself, I'm thinking of all I want to tell you about why this book is written as it is."
(O'Brien 171)
You have to carry the fire.
I don't know how to.
Yes you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I don't know where it is.
Yes you do. It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it.
(McCarthy 278-279)
The water shone pacifically: the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises island, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds.
" (Conrad 18)
No moon and no stars. It was the purest black you could imagine, Sanders said, the kind of clock-stopping black that God must've had in mind when he sat down to invent blackness.
" (O'Brien 209)
It was more than a year since his death, more than a year since the news came... And, by Jove! the impression was so powerful that for me, too, he seemed to have died only yesterday – nay, this very minute.
" (Conrad 91)
We just have to keep going, the man said. Come on... he slung the tarp of goods up over his shoulder and took the boy's hand and they went on.
" (McCarthy 233-234)
I had already thrown the grenade before telling myself to throw it. It occurred to me then that he was about to die. I wanted to warn him... All I could do was gape at the fact of the young man's body
." (O'Brien 127-128)
Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, and ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of his hands outwards, resembled an idol
." (Conrad 18).

He sat the boy on the footlocker under the gaslamp and with a plastic comb and a pair of scissors he set about cutting his hair... When he was done he took the towel from around the boy's shoulders and he scooped the golden hair from the floor... He cut his own hair... He trimmed his beard with the scissors while a pan of water heated and then he shaved himself with a plastic safety razor."
(McCarthy 151-152)
Types of Characters (Cont.)
The protagonist in The Things They Carried is Tim O'Brien. He is a realistic character. The character O'Brien is a fictional version of the author. I think that O'Brien matches the traditional definition of a hero more than the Shakespearean definition of a tragic hero because he made it through Vietnam and found a way to cope with his experiences during the war. He could have just as easily ended up like Norman Bowker. While in Vietnam he fought hard for his life and the lives of others even though he didn't think the war was just. He was a hero from the start because he didn't run away to Canada and chose to stay and fight. In a way he is archetypal of young men of his age at the time he was being drafted. They all faced the decision to run away or fight and they all had to decide what they were going to do.
It's time to be blunt. I'm forty-three years old, true, and I am a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier.
The genre of Heart of Darkness is horror and fiction. The narrative structure is a story within a story (embedded text). By being distanced like this it gives it an ominous, almost lurid feel. The book is linear because the plot throughout the book moves in a straight line. The conflict of the book is if Marlow will remain "civilized" in the eyes of European society as he travels deeper and deeper into "uncivilized" territory. Some turning points in the book would be when the natives attack Marlow's steamer on the Congo and the cruelty that he witnesses in the Company's employees when he first reaches Africa. The climax is when Marlow reaches Kurtz and finds out that he is as "uncivilized" as the Africans. The resolution is when Marlow visits Kurtz's family and his Intended. Marlow also has internal conflicts between himself and his morals. He had internal conflicts with the social norms of his society, of being "civilized" or "uncivilized". The duel narration in Heart of Darkness gives me an ominous feel. It makes the story less reliable, like the narrator could be keeping information from us.
he dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires.
" (Conrad 19)
Structure (Cont.)
The genre of The Road is science fiction and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction. The narrative structure is third person because the story isn't being told from the eyes of the man or of the boy. This makes you extremely disconnected because you never know what is going on inside the heads of the man and the boy. The book is linear because the plot moves in a straight line. The major conflict of The Road is to keep carrying the fire and to remain a good guy in a world full of bad guys. Some turning points are when they came upon the house with people in the basement, when they found the bunker, and when they made it to the sea. The climax is the father's death, and the resolution is when the boy goes with the man at the end of the book. The father had an internal conflict over to kill the boy or let him live. They were both pressured by the new social norms of society: cannibalism. The type of narration disconnects you from the novel and allows you to feel the hopelessness of their dark situation.

If only my heart were stone.
” (McCarthy 11)
Structure (Cont.)
The genre of The Things They Carried is fiction. The narrative structure is first person and third person. The first person point of view changes from O'Brien to his friends in his platoon throughout the book. This gives you a chance to connect to each character and know their personalities. The Things They Carried is circular, "
when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story.
"(O'Brien 233). The major conflict is that O'Brien has to learn to deal with his experiences in the Vietnam War. Some turning points would be the draft notice, Norman Bowker's suicide, Kiowa's death, and the times O'Brien got shot. The climax is the death of O'Brien's good friend, Kiowa. The resolution is in "The Lives of the Dead", when O'Brien accepts how the war changed his life and realizes how his experiences made him into the person he is today. O'Brien has internal conflicts over if he should have killed the man or not. In the beginning he has internal conflicts and pressures from society over whether he should go to war or not. The narration in They Things They Carried can be serious at times, but O'Brien ramps up the emotion by painting visual images in your mind of the suspense and action.

Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories ar for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.
” (O'Brien 36)
In Heart of Darkness, Conrad was trying to tell the people of his day that evil is not only African, as many people believed, it is also European. Conrad stresses cannibalism, associates African customs with violence and madness, associates the land and people as beast-like, and suggests that traveling in Africa is like traveling backward in time to the earliest, but terrible stages of existence. These features of the story are taken from the ideas of European imperialism and racism that painted an entire continent dark. Europeans were too busy criticizing others to take a good look at themselves. Conrad is mainly concerned with social rules of his time. What one society considers "civil" another society might not. The "European way" of looking at things also comes into contrast with psychological rules. The way Europeans acted towards African natives shows that their morals of basic human rights only apply to themselves.
Theme (Cont.)
In The Road, Cormac McCarthy is addressing the idea of a post-apocalyptic world. In a world where there is no government everyone abandons all morals, and chaos erupts. Many philosophers have had an impact on our Constitution, one man was Thomas Hobbes. He believes that when man is in a state of nature, we are in a state of war and chaos. McCarthy confirmed that philosophy by brutal killings and cannibalism shown inside The Road. McCarthy is concerned with social rules and psychological rules by saying in the absence of government we will ultimately lead to our own downfall. We will no longer worry if we are breaking a "law" or "moral", it is every man for himself. In a world where everyone is against each other, is there even hope for survival?
Theme (Cont.)
In The Things They Carried, O'Brien was telling the people of his day his opinion on the Vietnam War. In the beginning of the book he explained how he opposed an unjust war and that the brave option for him once he got drafted was to run to Canada. He was against the people that wanted him to go and fight because those were usually the people that weren't the ones getting drafted. They were the people staying safe in their homes, far from Vietnam. His ideas were those of many people involved in the counterculture movement of that time, that government shouldn't get involved in a war the people did not want to fight. A famous band that had the same ideas about the Vietnam War as O'Brien would be Black Sabbath. In their song "War Pigs" they call out politicians and government officials, "
Politicians hide themselves away, they only started the war, why should they go out to fight? They leave that role to the poor...
". Along with O'Brien, they show their dislike for the unfairness of the draft. O'Brien is mainly concerned with social rules, how it is unfair to be forced to fight in a war he didn't believe in or think was just.
By: Kayla McBride
Full transcript