Heart of Darkness Independent Reading Assignment: Follow the directions for each of the 3 Modules Carefully!
Heart of Darkness ... What people have to say about it!
“Here as elsewhere, the world is seen by Conrad as a place of unending contention between the forces of darkness and dissolution on the one hand and those of brotherhood, duty, and bravery on the other; this belief is sometimes referred to as Manichæism, an early Christian heresy. Conrad divides all mankind into two types--the visionaries (who are truly 'young' no matter what their chronological age) and the cynical realists. Conrad implies that a man is already dead if he has lost his ideals and visions. The sea is always present in Conrad's stories; for him, it symbolized the physical, emotional, and mental environment of the individual (as represented by the ship–see, for example, the stories "The Secret Sharer," "Typhoon," and "Youth"). Conrad shows how superficial are rational control and civilisation. Youth, full of romantic visions and idealism, encountering the sheer corruption of the Darwinian jungle, may be overwhelmed by the experience, as Tuan Jim is at the start of Lord Jim on board the Patna.”
Some Thoughts of Heart of Darkness….
This novel exposes the myth behind colonization whilst exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters--the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the European's cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil. Conrad himself was exposed to the brutality of European attitudes in the Congo when he worked as a captain of a steamboat on the Congo river. Conrad, as shown through this novella, was disgusted by the cruelty, futility, and lust for ivory. This is a profound, thought provoking novel that challenges the reader to question their own morals and values to 'The Horror' the novel exposes them to.
A post-colonialist, post-modern text dealing with the psychological and physical transformation of the Europeans and the quest of an individual for self-knowledge in the heart of Africa, the dark continent - the Congo - where Belgium has set up a colony. Marlow goes there as captain and finds Kurtz, a prosperous ivory agent with deteriorating health. Marlow's journey to meet Kurtz and bring him home to Europe is symbolic of his journey to the heart of darkness, the subconscious mind.
In every society we have intellectuals who wish to curb bad elements. How can ordinary citizens do that? Answer : Through Art and Literature! Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, and Joseph Conrad are all great examples of such genius, with a common denominator : they were making not only humanistic statements, but also political statements. The character of Kurtz is as openly a metaphorical figure, as Shylock. He represents a 'type' of personality : one that is intelligent, ambitious and capable. But at the sight of money, he turns into an evil genius. But all human beings also have a quality of 'empathy' as well, with all living things. So, after a while, he goes insane. Joseph Conrad was a messiah, giving a bold and truthful message to his countrymen. The injustice of ambitious white people knew no bounds in Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. Thousands of elephants were killed mercilessly for their ivory. Conrad asks a basic question : is this why God created man as the highest living being? Another title for this great novel might have been : The Enlightened Animal. That's us!
Even as the title itself suggests the intent of the writer in describing the darkness of more than one kind, Joseph Conrad's novella goes beyond portraying the harsh rainforests of Congo or the morbid depths of human psyche or even the tyranny of imperialistic rule. What was most impressive about the book was how Conrad explores and describes situations and experiences in the Heart of Darkness that is Africa. His contemplation on the cannibals' restraint in a certain episode or his narration of the sighting of the wild primeval men and his appreciation of their raw humanity like yours and mine or his facetious comments on high-handed Imperialism or describing Kurtz's 'Intended''s mourning a year later - an entire gamut of human expression is traversed. One of the most striking features of this book is how the author describes the life-like quality of the wilderness and the almost phantasmagorical description of his crew's trip down the Congo river into the true Heart of Darkness. Apart from a plot narration that swings to and fro in a pleasing manner, the author is able to address the reader's qualms about certain of his assertions through characters who interrupt his narration that happens in the surreal setting of the Thames that Conrad so beautifully describes.
Heart of Darkness is a journey to the dark soul of mankind. In creating this fiction Conrad uses the technique of the Iliad. He also uses the technique which we find in The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner where the narrator has to keep repeating his story in an effort to cleanse the memory. Christian symbolism is rampant as Conrad shows us the pilgrims, the spear through the side of his helmsman, the episode with his shoes redolent of Jesus telling his disciples to shake off the dust from their sandals. The novella overall has a Nietzschian quality as the colonists strive to achieve their goals through a will to power over the indigent people of Africa. The women in the novella are reminiscent of the Madonna/ Whore complex. By the end of the narrative we are almost ready to start again hoping for a different outcome.