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Joseph Campbell's Monomyth in Heart of Darkness

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Carolyn Kierulf

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of Joseph Campbell's Monomyth in Heart of Darkness

What is the Monomyth?
Joseph Campbell, an american mythologist, created a basic pattern which describes the typical journey of a hero, present in all typical adventure stories ever told. It has twelve main stages, including the
, and
of a typical hero. These twelve stages are present in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" as Marlow undergoes a journey of self-discovery.
Stage #12-
Return with the Elixir
"The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed."
Is Marlow a Hero?
"the hero is usually a man"
Marlow is a man.
"He was the only man of us who still followed the sea" (page 6).
The Monomyth
In conclusion, "Heart of Darkness" follows the twelve stages of the heroic journey as demonstrated. Marlow, the narrator and protagonist of the framed narration represents a true hero, and possesses many of the common characteristics of heroes.

The Monomyth in Heart of Darkness
The Hero Myth
The hero myth demonstrates many characteristics that are common among all typical heroes. Many of these 21 characteristics are demonstrated in Marlow's character in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"
Stage #1-
The Ordinary World
"The hero is introduced sympathetically, shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero's life is causing stress"
-Marlow is aboard "The Nellie" on the Thames river with the Lawyer, the Accountant, and the Director. He decides to retell the story of his experience in the "Heart of Darkness" when he travelled to Africa and learnt the truth about colonization and the many empires.
-Since he was a child, Marlow has always loved reading maps and exploring new places.
-After returning from a previous trip out East, Marlow was seeking a new ship to start a new adventure.
The clip shows a boat along the Thames river, the setting where the entire story is being told.
Stage #2-
Call to Adventure
"Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change."
-Marlow is fascinated by the Congo river because of its "snake like" shape, and thinks that he could work at a nearby trading company as a steamboat captain.
-Marlow's aunt has connections with a Trading society and she is determined to get him appointed as skipper of a river steamboat.
-Marlow learns that one of the steamboat captains had been killed in a scuffle with the natives, so he was offered the job faster.
Stage #3-
Refusal of the Call
"The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead."
-Marlow is excited for his trip to the heart of darkness, and does
express any concern or doubts.
-However the only evidence of this element is after his conversation with his aunt, when Marlow has a moment, "I won't say of hesitation, but of startled pause, before this commonplace affair. The best way I can explain it to you is by sayin that, for a second or two, I felt as through, instead of going to the centre of a continent, I were about to set off for the centre of the earth."
Stage #4-
Meeting with the Mentor
"The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him training, equipment, or advice that will help him on the journey."
-Marlow's mentor is his aunt, who helps him reach his goal of getting a job in the mysterious heart of darkness.
-She was very excited for her nephew, and expressed how he was very lucky to get that position and she will always do anything she can for him.
Stage #5-
Crossing the Threshold
"The hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values."
-Marlow signs the contract as the old knitting ladies look right through him, playing the role of the "guardians of the threshold".
-Marlow gets off the steamboat at his company's first station.
-He gets his first glimpse of how his company is treating the natives: "While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink."
-Marlow hears about the mysterious Mr. Kurtz for the first time.

Stage #6-
Tests, Allies, and Enemies
"The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World."
-Marlow endures a two-hundred mile tramp with a group of sixty men which took fifteen days.
-He finds out his steamer had sunk because someone had taken it out two days before, and tore the bottom of the steamer on stones.
-Now, he has to repair the boat which delays his journey.
-He needs rivets to fix the boat, however as much as he asks for them it takes a long time to receive them.
Stage #7-
The Approach
"The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special World."
-Marlow and the crew travel up the Congo river toward Kurtz's station: "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were Kings."
-The explorers penetrated deeper into the heart of darkness
-They find an abandon hut with wood left for them, and Marlow finds a book about sailing inside the hut.
-When they are eight miles from Kurtz's station, they decide to wait until morning because of the dangerous navigation
-In the morning it is very foggy and only two feet broad around the steamer is visible
Stage #8-
The Ordeal
"Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death of faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life."
-As they travel through the narrow part of the river, the natives try to repluse them from continuing their journey, by throwing spears, arrows, and twigs at them.
-The Helmsman fixes the shutters but a spear pierces him in the side, and dies as a pool of blood surrounds Marlow's feet.
-Marlow sounds the steam whistle and the attackers disappear.
-Marlow is disappointed and thinks his whole journey is over "the gift has vanished" and he is convinced that he will never meet Kurtz.
Stage #9-
The Reward
"The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again."
-As they continue on, Marlow sees in the distance a clearing on the riverside and the outlines of some sort of building, everyone is glad to finally reach their destination.
-Marlow meets the Russian man who left them wood. He gives the russian man his book and hears stories about Kurtz and the natives.
-Marlow sees Kurtz being carried in a stretcher and the crew is happy that they got what they came for.
Stage #10-
The Road Back
"The hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home."
-Marlow wakes up in the middle of the night and realizes Kurtz is gone, he has crawled back to join the tribal celebration.
-Marlow follows him, determined to "bring the treasure back" and see what his motives are.
-Marlow carries Kurtz back to the ship, which leaves the following day at noon.
Stage #11-
The Resurrection
"The hero is severly tested once more on the threshold of home. He is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of detah and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level."
-On the way out of the Congo while they are leaving the inner station, Marlow once again uses the steam whistle, but this time to save this lives of the native people from the armed pilgrims.
-Kurtz struggles to hold on, and gives Marlow a package of papers and photographs to keep for him and hide from the manager.
-Kurtz dies, and his last words are, "The Horror! The Horror!"
-Marlow returns to Europe, and nurses his illness with the help of his aunt (mentor).
-He possesses a new found knowledge, and feels like nobody else could possibly know the things that he knows.
-He meets many people in relation with Kurtz and learns more about the mystery of his past as he shares his appreciation with others of the remarkable man.
According to the many characteristics of the Hero Myth, I can conclude that Marlow in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is a hero. Marlow's incredible journey of self-discovery and realization of the reality behind imperialism and colonization resembles a heroic-like adventure. Marlow is a hero because after returning, he does not expose his knowledge. Society would not accept the truth, therefore his method of teaching others this lesson through "story-telling" is effective.
"he is often identified as a potential hero when he is quite young, manifesting some sort of latent power"

As a child, Marlow had a passion for maps and all the glories of exploration.
"At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When i grow up I will go there' ". (page 10)
"he has impressive physical attributes, such as great strength or speed"
The narrator describes him as ressembling an idol.
"Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, ressembled an idol." (page 4)
"he has impressive mental attributes, such as great cleverness or resourcefulness"
Marlow is curious and ambitious. "And as I looked at the map of it in a shop window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird- a silly little bird." (page 10)
He has a good work ethic, since he has to fix his steamboat with limited supplies availability, they might be intentionally trying to delay his journey to Kurtz.
He is resourceful when he uses the steam whistle to scare away the natives.
"he often seems to have hidden knowledge"
After returning from his long journey, Marlow now possesses a new found self knowledge and knowledge of the Congo.
"They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew." (page 107)
He also possesses documents that were Kurtz's and refuses to share them with anyone.
Marlow's hidden knowledge is similar to hidden treasure.
"he often has a hidden weakness that can defeat him if his enemy finds it"
Marlow detests lying and lies, and feels guilty whenever he does so.
"You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me." (page 39)
"he is a loner, who does not praise himself and does not talk much"
Marlow is not a loner, but seems to keep to himself at times during his journey. However while telling the story on "The Nellie," he seems to be very interested in sharing this lesson.
This commercial is similar to how Marlow tells his story to his crewmates.
"he is often misunderstood by those around him, often those he is trying to help"
Marlow is misunderstood by the narrator and other listeners aboard the Nellie when he is simply trying to inform them of imperialism and the effect the journey had on him.
"Showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear." (page 9)

The lyrics in this song are similar to the feelings of Marlow when the narrator and others seem reluctant to hear his story.
"he has a mysterious, hidden, or sometimes magical past"
Marlow has returned from a trip to the east, and as a child he had a passion for reading maps. As he is describing the many places he has ventured, he explains, "I have been in some of them, and... well, we won't talk about that," perhaps Marlow is disclosing information about his past. (page 10)
This photo is an example of the cobblestones from the past being hidden from the new cement.
There were few reference to Marlow having help from others since his journey was mostly self-discovery, however, the fact that he was able to survive his journey in such a dangerous situation might have had help from the gods.
"he often loses these weapons, and has to rely on his wits"
Since Marlow comes from the middle class of Europe, he is dressed differently than the negroe workers who accompany him on the journey into the heart of darkness. The less fortunate have old rags for clothing.
"Black rags were wound near their loins." (page 22)
Also, the 'pilgrims' wear all white since they appear to be of the richer class.
"he is favoured by the ladies, but is almost never married"
"he has the help of the gods"
"he uses a special weapon"
When Marlow's steamboat is being attacked by the natives, he has no way of fighting back while steering the ship. To scare them away, he jerked the steam whistle to sound the screeching noise.
"The tumult of angry and warlike yells was checked instantly, and then from the depths of the woods went out such a tremulous and prolonged wail of mournful fear and utter despair." (page 69)
This is an example of the steam whistle Marlow used to scare away the natives.
When Marlow follows Kurtz into the dark, eerie forest during the middle of the night, Marlow does not have the steam whistle to scare away any crazy natives. Instead, he threatens Kurtz, which however, isn't exactly using his wits, "but if you try to shout I'll smash your head with.... I will throttle you for good." (page 99)
"he often dresses differently from those around him"
He is
favoured by the ladies. However, it seems like he tries to protect them from the truth, such as when he lies to Kurtz's fiance that his lasts words were her name.
Also, he seems misogynist when he describes women as being out of touch, " They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be." (page 17)
"he is often offered riches or power to divert him from his task"
He is not offered riches or power, but is diverted from his task through misfortune, when the ship is damaged.
"They had started two days before in a sudden hurry up the river with the manager on board, in charge of some volunteer skipper, and before they had been out three hours they tore the bottom of her on stones, and she sank near the south bank." (page 30)
"he sometimes has the help of the most unlikely, often very simple, innocent people"
Accompanying him on the journey to the inner station are negroes, many of them cannibals. It is very unlikely that someone would put themselves in a dangerous situation similar to this, because if the cannibals are hungry Marlow could be in danger.
"We had enlisted some of these chaps on the way for a crew. Fine fellows- cannibals - in their place." (page 51)
"he often gets into very serious trouble from which there seems no escape, but somehow he manages to escape"
As they approach the station, the natives attack Marlow and his crew as they move through a narrow section with high banks. The natives shoot arrows at them.
"There was a great commotion in the bush; the shower of arrows stopped, a few dropping shots rang out sharply- then silence." (page 69)
Although this seems like a dangerous situation, Marlow and his crew escape due to his great expertise.
Similar to the characters from the A-Team show, Marlow and his crew escaped a dangerous situation.
"he often gets seriously injured"
Marlow becomes sick during the journey back, but is able to survive.
"I toiled wearily in a wretched scrap-heap - unless I had the shakes too bad to stand." (page 104)
Marlow is slowly becoming ill because of the mentally and physically exhausting journey of travelling along the Congo river.
"he is able to overcome the most difficult obstacles"
Marlow overcomes the both physically and emotionally draining experiences of his journey of self discovery.
-He fixes his boat despite possible intentional delays
-He travels the exhausting journey to the inner station
-He faces Kurtz and his native followers
"It was so risky and scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Maybe the truth was, it shouldn't be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It's the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something's difficult to come by, you'll do that much more to make sure it's even harder- if not impossible- to lose."

-Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride
This quote ressembles a chacter's struggle to overcome difficult obstacles.
"he usually has one very formidable opponent (or force)"
Marlow does not encounter any enemies or opponents during his journey. The only opponents he faces are the natives, especially those who are friends with Kurtz at the inner station. They are opposing Marlow simply because they do not want him and the crew to take away Kurtz.
Also, the native/crazy side of Kurtz's personality opposes Marlow and creates obstacles for him.
"he is honoured by his people or government"
Although Marlow is not formally honoured by anyone of great significance, members from Kurtz's family praise him for his appreciation of the great prodigy.
"I feel like I can speak to you... I want you - you who have heard his last words - to know I have been worthy of him." (page 113)
Example of a consultation with a mentor
Song: Boat on the River, Kurtz finally returning from the inner station
The expression on the mans face in this painting is portrays Kurtz's last words, "The horror! The horror!"
This painting was painted before Heart of Darkness.
"The Scream"
by Edvard Munch
Before the Belgians took control of Congo, its land was untouched with an abundance of natural resources.
In 1874 King Leopold set up his own colony in Congo and named it Belgian territory. The main purpose was to gain economic success in acquiring many valuable resources.
"Heart of Darkness" is inspired by Conrad's journey to the Congo, and his experiences and truths he endured. Joseph Conrad's journey to the Congo is very similar to that of Marlow.
-The song playing during this slide represents the feelings of the new knowledge that Marlow possesses when he returns home- "Nobody Knows".
BuddhaTribe. “World Music from Africa: Ethnic Music, Percussion, African Tribal Music.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 26 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 July 2013.

Conrad, Joseph.
Heart of Darkness
. New York: Bantam Dell, 2004. Print.

Gonzales, Chester. “Styx- Boat on the River.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 23 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

Jennywiom. “Shieldhall Steam Whistle.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 15 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 July 2013.

Munch, Edvard.
The Scream
. 1893. National Gallery, Norway.
Web. 19 July 2013.

PinkVevo. “P!nk- Nobody Knows.” Online sound clip.
. Youtube, 24 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

StrictlyLaced. “Air Jordan XX Commercial- Spike Lee Story Telling.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 21 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 July 2013.

TheLestu. “The Animals- Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood lyrics.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 27 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 July 2013.

Viciousspacman42. “Boating on the Thames.” Online video clip.
. Youtube, 26 July 2011. Web. 19 July 2013.

"Welcome to the Congo".
edublogs. 2013. Web. 19 July 2013

*this colour
represents an italic text*

Works Cited
by Carolyn Kierulf-Monaghan
"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself"
-Joseph Campbell
The hero's journey as described in "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell describes the many phases that an individual experiences as they grow. Campbell wrote this book as he explored mythological themes, and this work influenced the rising popularity of comparative mythology.
Full transcript