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Significance of Colour in the Heart of Darkness

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Adam Ventimiglia

on 30 November 2012

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Transcript of Significance of Colour in the Heart of Darkness

Significance of Colour in The Heart of Darkness Adam Ventimiglia and Cierial Is... Intro- Authors use forms of symbolism that challenge the reader to further “read in” and enjoy the book. Joseph Conrad used colours to describe undertones and emotions through his text. In his novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad mainly uses colours to explain the undetected truth. By using this method Conrad was able to portray his characters to display their true colours. One would make assumptions on the characteristics of people through their words and actions, so Conrad makes a system to find an accurate personality. As people “go through the day”, Conrad associates their words and actions with colours. These colours; white, black, red, yellow, pale, and light and dark associated with resembling characters and/or the situations . atmosphere. Colours Red
Yellow
Pale
White
Black
Light
Dark Red The colour red is a colour which is used in the story to represent industry and how it affects all the natives in the Congo. Many of the work stations are covered in blood which is an indication that the Africans have been worked excessively hard for a long period of time and they have bled on the job and to the pilgrims this is seen as progress and that there is work being done. The use of red is representing the need for progress in Africa no matter what the cost is to the natives as long as it helps the Europeans that have settled there. "There was a vast amount of red - good to see at any time because one knows that some real work is done there." (Conrad 13) Pale Pale is used as a symbol of death, it is easy to recognize this because of the way a dead body looks, it also is commonly used to show someone being scared of death, for example it is repeatedly used in the bible,” Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob: "No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale (Isaiah 29:22). It is also used again in the book of revelations 6:8, “the Pale horse and his rider Death.” The colour pale is an easy to recognize symbol for fear or death and it is used in “the heart of darkness on page 72-73. “She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning. It was more than a year since his death…” Yellow Yellow is seen as a cowardly color. People during this time would see someone who was malnourished in a yellow colour and they were too weak to do anything outdoors, so when a person was afraid to do something they would be called yellow (which is where the term yellow-bellied came from as used in old English trash-talk). So as it was referred to in the story as cowardly when someone used the term yellow. “I was going into the yellow. Dead in the center.” (Conrad p.13). White White is always an indicator or goodness or purity, which is easy for people to recognize. However, in the book things that are white are not always what they seem. The people that are white on the outside are doing the evil barbaric acts, whereas the people who are black seem to be the more civilized ones compared to the acts of the Europeans. “He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings”
(Conrad p.51). This quote shows that even Kurtz understands that savageness that he and the company came with to this country and how inhuman there methods were, and how even though they were white (or good) they were quickly were changed in twisted ways and their once pure hearts were now changed to Hearts of darkness. Black is one of the main colours used in the heart of darkness, black or dark refers to the evil or savagery that occurs within the congo and as marlow continues down the river it get darker as a metaphorical terms, At the beginning he sees the native people as black or evil and that the company bringing white people will begin to civilize the country, but the reality is completely different. The story begins to show that people have white souls or black souls depending on their innate “goodness” or “badness” or the role they are fulfilling at the time. The color of a person’s soul is often contrasted to the color of their skin. A black- souled, white-skinned person is thought to be evil and dishonest. “I met a white man in such an unexpected elegance of getup…” (Conrad p.21) This demonstrates how a white man was not expected to be a good person. Elegance of dress was unexpected because the man was white. In comparison, a white-souled, black-skinned person is thought to be truthful and full of integrity. “An athletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poor predecessor….thought all the world of himself.” (Conrad p.45). Black Still Black... People are described as black with hatred regardless of skin color. This is further evidence of black being used synonymously with evil. Black isn’t just used to describe evil people. “Often far away, I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall…” (Conrad p. 14.) The symbolism of black wool at the door of Darkness is clearly pointing to evil, and further supports black as evil. Black is also used to describe the scenery of that is showing that evil has covered the land, “I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness (Conrad p. 107).” The use of color is effective in the story for a variety of reasons. First, it is easy to understand. Second, colors are simple to identify, and recognizable colors are used in the book. Anyone able to read this book already knows the colors. Last, the significance of a color stays consistent throughout the book. Black is always considered evil, and white always symbolizes good. Other colors retain their identity as well. Color as symbolism plays a large role in Heart of Darkness. Although good and evil are the thoughts most commonly identified by colors in the story, other concepts are represented by colors as well, including death, industry, and cowardice. The use of colors as symbols gives the reader another way of looking at ideas central to the theme of Heart of Darkness. Conclusion... Colours, as used by Joseph Conrad, generally show the "true colours" of people and events in the novel Heart of Darkness. Significance of Colour Heart of Darkness
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