Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

Heart of Darkness Critical Analysis

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Heart of Darkness Irony of situation plays a major role in the shaping of events in the novel Heart of Darkness. For instance Joseph Conrad does not use light as a symbol for bringing knowledge and truth to a situation; rather he uses light as an indication of a hidden truth. These occurrences include “There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. (Conrad 30)” This shows the feelings that Marlow is having towards the setting of the jungle.

Even though they are venturing further into the jungle and down the river Marlow doesn’t feel any more self assured on his feelings about Kurtz or the company. Since he feels that his future is unclear he is undecided on which side he should be on. “When Marlow is eavesdropping on his ship he hears the manager speaking with his uncle. The discussion that he hears is that the two of them have a plot to get rid of Kurtz. (Conrad 28)” This makes Marlow feel even more isolated from the European men and he is not sure who he wants to side with.

Ironically Marlow feels that he wants to side with Kurtz and the cannibals than his fellow European employers. The “Eldorado Exploring Expedition” that is mentioned by the manager’s uncle is an ironic symbol in the story of itself. Eldorado was historically known as a city of gold and it was never found so it was concluded that it was only myth and never existed. This is interesting because it shows that the whites were willing to risk everything to get the ivory. Just as many explorers risked everything to try to find the city of Eldorado. Often times Europeans are portrayed as being superior to the African natives.

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Heart of Darkness shows a good bit of irony in that the cannibals are more civilized than the European leaders. “Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its somber and brooding ferocity? Well I do. It takes a man all of his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. (Conrad 38)” At this point Marlow is extremely impressed by the restraint of the cannibals. Even though they are starving they still get their objectives on the steamboat completed. Normally the cannibals would be depicted as having very primitive qualities, but they are more advanced than the Europeans.

It is very ironic that while the African natives have an external darkness; while the colonizers have an internal darkness. Traditionally light means knowledge truth and civilization. Darkness has typically been associated with evil, ignorance, blindness, or that something is uncivilized. Many different individuals associate darkness with racism and to a certain degree Marlow is racist in this novel. The opposition of light and darkness shows the irony of imperialism in this novel. The sophistication of societies is an element that Joseph Conrad used to show a contrast between the Europeans and the natives of the Congo.

Marlow has an epiphany about what civilized means to him when he meets with Kurtz and sees everything that he has done. Marlow questions whether or not all of the sacrifices that take place for imperialism to occur are worth a greater truth. Are the evils of colonialism excusable for a greater truth? This is a question that needs to be considered in order to have benefits for our world in the future. Work Cited Page Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1990. (28, 30, 38)

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