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Significance of the Title of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

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Ashley Paling

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of Significance of the Title of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

By Alexia Albano and Ashley Paling Symbolism of the Title "Heart of Darkness" How exactly did
Conrad wish us to
interpret the title? The End! “Heart of Darkness”
as a state of mind "The Darkness" Whose heart is Conrad
mainly concerned with? Conrad wants us to believe the title reflects the unknown and spiritual darkness of several of his characters. The title is also
a warning to all men. Conrad believed that all men had evil in them and that the jungle, and a lack of civilization, brought out
the savagery in them. For example, Kurtz’s character has many levels of the evil which sprouted from man’s original sin. The
longer Kurtz stays in the Congo, the harder it is for him to go back to civilization. Conrad’s view of Africa at the time also shows through in the title. He noticed that Africa had turned into a place
of great sin. The Europeans were fighting for power, and the natives were forced into slavery. The title also represents the movement of Imperialism into the Congo. The concentration of European markets and the practice of Imperialism
in Africa were extremely popular at the time. This led the Congo into darkness. When Marlow is on the steamboat on the river, he sees how naive his society is in thinking that they are in fact “civilized”. It is ironic that the cannibals on the steamboat are acting more civilized than their white superiors. The title also represents the movement of society going backward in the times of humanity. This shows through in Marlow’s realization that the deeper they travel into the Congo, the further back they are going in civilization. The title “Heart of Darkness” can also be represented as a state of mind, let alone a physical place. The dark
depths of the jungle brought out an evil found in all men; which came about through original sin. The jungle is similar to the unknown evil in the hearts of all men; they will both be discovered, whether people are looking for them or not. For example, Marlow runs into an attack on the river, which he was not prepared for. This fills him with rage because it is delaying him from getting to meet the mysterious Kurtz.
Kurtz represents the fact that the longer you stay in the jungle, the more it changes your character; you become more willing to
do evil things. The title symbolizes the savageness that comes out in all white men when exposed to riches; men become hollow. When the men become greedy, darkness takes over their souls. An example of this is how the Manager wants Kurtz hung because of the amount of ivory he is producing;
jealously is the spark of evil. The darkness mentioned in the title can refer to many things, such as:

-the blindness of the white men; these men don’t realize their injustice towards the slaves, which shows how naive they are about the outside
world. An example of this characteristic is in Marlow; he could not admit that what he was doing was wrong.

-the darkness in the hearts of all of the people who have been to the Congo. As soon as you travel into heart of the jungle, you are forever changed from the evil within yourself. -Africa, as a continent, was a very dark place: its inhabitants consisted of mainly black slaves. Because of this we can take the darkness in the title as a literal interpretation. Another literal interpretation we can get from the title is of the jungles: the Nile, being narrow and overgrown in areas, is very closed
in and dark, which can be perceived as quite ominous. This, coupled with a person’s experiences in the Congo can add up
to an overall “darkness of the soul”. Joseph Conrad is mainly concerned with the people’s hearts that visited, and worked in, the Congo. He believed that no matter what side you were on (the explorers or the slaves), you either created the evil inside yourself, or were taken over by it. From Conrad’s own experience, he knows that the Congo can severely change you. Prior to writing “Heart of Darkness”, Joseph Conrad served as a sea
captain for a Congo steamer. After just one trip up the river, Conrad had witnessed so many atrocities that he resigned immediately.
Thanks to his experience on the Congo, he has the personal concern for others traveling into the Congo’s deep, dark depths.
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