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Heart of Darkness
Transcript of Heart of Darkness
"...You remember I told you I had been struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamentation, rather remarkable in the ruinous aspect of the place. Now I had suddenly a nearer view and its first result was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing--food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole....I returned deliberately to the first I had seen--and there it was black, dried, sunken with closed eyelids--a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber. " Marlow is informed that the heads were those of "rebels," were men who had probably not gone along with every whim of the debased Kurtz. "Those rebellious heads looked very subdued to me on their sticks," comments Marlow. Decapitated Heads on the Posts End of Journey However, during the trip, Marlow becomes ill also and almost dies along with Kurtz. His near death experience causes him to ponder his life and the outcome his journey has brought him. This is am important, pivotal part because Marlow is given the chance to form a different viewpoint regarding his own life. Kurtz and Marlow trave back up the Congo, but Kurtz does not survive the trip. His last words are "The horror, the horror!" Kurtz's Mistress Kurtz has a native mistress. She is portrayed as beautiful, wild, and as having expensive taste. The mistress symbolizes Kurtz’s savage side, or the savage side of humanity. When Kurtz leaves, she extends her arms towards the river in a desperate gesture, signifying the pain that colonization has caused the people of the Congo. She represents the reality of the African people and the effect the Europeans have had on the natives. Kurtz's Intended When Marlow returns to Europe, he visits Kurtz’s fiancé to tell her about the death of Kurtz. However, Marlow stretches the truth and tells the intended that Kurtz’s last words were her name. Marlow did not think that she could handle the truth of what Kurtz really said, which indicated the theme of woman needing to be left out of the truth. Marlow lies, showing the sin in him, and revealing his hypocrisy of lying although he claims to “hate the lie.” Marlow’s perspective of his aunt and the European’s talk of women indicate the theme of women ignoring truth and living in their own fantasy land. Marlow feels that women are naïve, and that men must lie to them to keep them ignorant of the evils in the world. Naïveté of women “The word ivory rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying on it.”------ Marlow says this upon his arrival to the Central Station. Its significance is that it shows how important the ivory was to the Europeans and especially, Kurtz. Marlow is saying that everyone almost worships the ivory. However, Conrad usually juxtaposes an ivory image with bone imagery. The bone imagery is a symbol for death which represents the greed of Europeans who would do anything necessary to obtain ivory, even murder.” “The horror, the horror!” These are Kurtz’s famous last words in which indicate that he has come to the realization of what he has truly become, a savage just like the natives. He exposes the situational irony of the Europeans actually being the uncivilized rather than then natives. Kurtz also indicated the theme of the innate evil nature of man. Absurdity of Evil Marlow enjoys the adventure he gets from the unknown. He is obsessed with unexplored lands, which is what led him on his journey through the Congo. Nevertheless, when he arrives at the Congo, Marlow realizes that the Congo is an evil place and brings out the evil in men. He also learns that although the native savages may seem uncivil, they are more civil than most of the Europeans which surprises Marlow. "They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity-like yours- the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.” This quote explores the realization of the loss of humanity and the comparison the civil nature of the native and the Europeans. This is an important and ironic theme. Conrad uses this quote to also make the reader question the reliability of Marlow. He realizes that he, too, is savage like the natives, but then knows that civilization is what holds his savage side from being revealed. “I found with humiliation that I would have nothing to say.” Marlow is reflecting his life and prior choice up the death of Kurtz. Marlow, however, becomes upset at the fact that he would not have had anything significant to say if he died. Kurtz’s last words were “the horror” because he came to a realization of his evil nature, but this also reveals the true nature of humanity as a whole. Marlow wishes to leave a legacy that can equate to Kurtz’s, but he feels that he is not “remarkable” enough of a man. As a result, Marlow feels that he life is meaningless. “They—the women I mean—are out of it-- should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse.” Kurtz writes the phrase “exterminate all the brutes!” at the bottom of a report to the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. This quotes exposes Kurtz’s exact feelings towards the natives. He hates them. This is a theme indicator of racism. Although this work is believed to be a racist novella, we, as a group, have come to the conclusion that Heart of Darkness is not a racist work, but a work to expose the true nature of imperialism with hints of racism. Racism as a theme Man vs the Natural World "A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar. I slipped through one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert, and opened the first door I came to." Here, Marlow describes the company’s office in Brussels. Marlow gives such a negative description because this is the only way he views civilization at this point. His depiction highlights the constriction and filth which Conrad later uses to directly describe civilization. God Imagery Both Marlow and Kurtz are compared to spiritual gods. Marlow is like a Buddha who was an enlightening teacher figure. Kurtz is described as a lightning and fire Jupiter figure. Jupiter symbolizes the negative human emotions of jealousy, vengeance, and power-hunger. "Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, and ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled and idol." Fresleven Fresleven is the ship captain before Marlow. He is, essentially, Marlow’s predecessor. Fesleven places an important role because Marlow’s initial observation of his African experiences is that when he came upon the remains of him, Marlow says, “…The grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones." Marlow's striking image resonates not only with scriptural connotations, but also with suggestions of the paradoxical natural vitality of the grass growing through the bones, and with overtones of moral judgment for the culpable neglect of Fresleven's remains by his survivors. Brick Maker One of the manager's associates, the brickmaker doesn't actually make any bricks since he supposedly lacks the materials. Marlow considers him to be empty inside just like the general manager. The brickmaker hoped to become assistant manager, but the arrival of Kurtz put a wrench in his plans, and he seems rather unhappy because of it. Russian Trader The Russian trader arrived to the Congo on a Dutch ship and ended up becoming a loyal companion of Kurtz. He regards Kurtz as an absolute genius whose words and ideas are amazingly powerful. It is the Russian who tells Marlow about Kurtz's fall into madness. The power of words theme is powerful and constant in Heart of Darkness. However, it is more fitting to categorize this theme as truth. This theme also ties into the theme of women’s dependence of men. In Heart of Darkness truth is not fact. Conrad conveys truth as what the mind and personal opinion perceive and decide. "Exterminate all the Brutes!" -Kurtz Eavesdropping Marlow most about the world around him by eavesdropping on others people's conversations, as when he listens from the deck of the wrecked steamer to the manager of the Central Station and his uncle discussing Kurtz and the Russian trader. "One evening I was lying flat on the deck of my steamboat, I heard voices approaching..." Persuasiveness of
Darkness Darkness is perhaps the strongest theme in the novel. Marlow's tale begins and ends in literal darkness; the setting of the novel is often dark, such as when the steamboat is socked in by fog or when Marlow retrieves Kurtz; dark-skinned individuals inhabit the entire region; and, of course, there is a certain philosophical darkness that infuses the work. But within the tale darkness operates in several ways. Fog When Marlow is on the steamer, he encounters endless amounts of fog, fog that entraps the men and the steamer. Marlow and the crewmen are surrounded by the fog, unable to make out anything or decipher friend from foe. The fog represented Marlow's mental state, and his inability to make a decisive decision regarding Kurtz, as well as, his own essence as a person. The Three Fates The two women who are sitting outside of the secretary's are symbolic of the Fates from Greek Mythology.The three women were usually characterized as Clotho, a spinner of the thread of life; Lachesis, who was the measurer and chooses the kind and length of life of a person. Finally, there is Atropos, who at death cuts through the tread of life with her scissors. As representative of the Fates, these knitting women are put in the place as judges of Marlow, able to determine his fate. The fact there are two, not three women, indicates one is missing---possibly Atropos, indicating Marlow is not near to death. MADNESS Heart of Darkness explores man’s ability to descend into madness along with the ability to break away from it and triumph over the dark, consuming impulses that threaten to consume his heart and mind. This struggle between awareness and madness is evidenced in both Marlow and Kurtz. Additionally, the narrative is quick to establish that Kurtz has fully descended into the “farthest” state of madness, but is decidedly less clear as to why. While it is easy to dismiss his state of mind as the effect of greed and arrogance--his ability to accumulate large amounts of ivory has helped convey him as a god-like entity in the eyes of both the British and the natives within the Congo. The initial, unnamed narrator identifies with Marlow occasionally throughout Heart of Darkness. They are not foils, but they compliment each other. The unnamed narrator is a peripheral narrator meaning his narration outlines Marlow’s, and he narrates in the first person. Marlow is the Central narrator. Because his voice is the one this story revolves around, he also narrates in the first person but is not peripheral because he only sees from his point of view. In comparison, the unnamed narrator sees everything because he is outside of the story. The Narrative voice changes six times over the course of the novel including the first time Marlow speaks. Each time the narrative voice changes, the unnamed narrator comments on Marlow or how he feels about Marlow’s storytelling. The narrative voice changes in order to convey the mood of Marlow’s storytelling. "In a very few hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. I had no difficulty in finding the Company's offices. It was the biggest thing in the town, and everybody I met was full of it. They were going to run an over-sea empire, and make no end of coin by trade." The End