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Heart of Darkness: Madness, Primitivism and Alienation

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Jaya Sisson

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of Heart of Darkness: Madness, Primitivism and Alienation

Heart of Darkness: Primitivism, Madness and Alienation Primitivism Madness Link to madness Alienation and loneliness Accusations of racism Racism "The prehistoric man" African continent Marlow "and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut" The African
Continent "cut off forever from everything
you had once known" Human soul The human soul but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity - like yours - the thought of your remote kinship "Civilised man" Kurtz "Kurtz wandered alone, far in the depths of the forest" Link to Madness "We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth" "Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world" "savages" "primeval" "We live as we dream - alone..." "And outside the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible...waiting for the passing away of this fantastic invasion" " far off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild - and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country Juxtaposition of descriptions of europeans and Africans Implication that natives are backward and less human than europeans Derogatory terms bringing together the two cultures Puts both cultures on the same level (equaliser) Innate human nature How alienation affects key characters The “Heart of Darkness” is essentially about how modern, and socially developed, men react to being taken away from their society, with all it’s structures, and put in a position of dominance and power. And about how this then corrupts and destroys. Kurtz is a man who abuses this power, distorting his own morality and descending into violent madness. But, this madness is not actually caused by the stripping away of societies barriers; just given reign to develop. Kurtz’s madness is a consequence of his struggle to define the morally right, without any justifications other than his own; he has no religion to refer to, nothing to start from and no one to challenge his presumptions. Kurtz is given the power to control, lead and judge. He aims to use this to create a new world, free from the hypocrisy and corruption of society that Marlow observes. However, defining for ourselves the morally right, without other justifications, is impossible. Kurtz is often compared to Nietzsche's Superman, in his ability to trust his own intuitive senses of right and wrong and his rejection of a need for a justification of existence. Kurtz’s dying words however perhaps give a different opinion; “The horror! The horror!” Which shows a lapse in Kurtz’s confidence, perhaps Kurtz realises that his opinions are worthless, regardless if he is right or wrong he can never truly justify them to himself . Which is what Kurtz is so horrified by; he can convince people like the Russian trader and the natives to believe in him and his opinions due to his skill as an orator, convincing himself however is solely based on the integrity of his viewpoint, which Kurtz can never judge, and so can never truly find any sort of correct morality "wild vitality" "black shapes" "black shadows" Complete dehumanisation
of the natives Infers superiority of europeans over the africans "The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist" - Achebe Sympathetic? Beautiful imagery Something poignant about the description of Africa as an ancient place for which colonialism is simply an era it will outlive something of a recluse; no close ties with anyone other than one aunt, although amicable enough befriends none of the other characters Gives the africans their humanity Perhaps Conrad is simply a product of his time Link to alienation Suggestion that the europeans do not belong in Africa All human have within them this primitive side of humanity. The africans express it while the europeans mask it with "civilised"behavior Loneliness and alienation could be considered factors which caused madness in some cases a woman draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch personification of the african continent as submissive; being led blindly by european colonialists self inflicted isolation
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