This sense of elation, Conrad argues, is what creates a bridge of sorts that initially allows individuals to leave their sense of civilization and the self-preservation that goes with it behind, and entering into the unknown; a heart of darkness.
One of the most prominent pieces of symbolism that Conrad uses to represent this bridge between the competing demands of civilization and honesty occurs when finds two sinister-looking women knitting black wool at the Company's offices.
The debate rages on. Believe us when we say this: every point in the Heart of Darkness debate has a counter-point, and a point to counter that counterpoint.
But Heart of Darkness is much, much more than a story about a trip up the river. It's a searching exploration of difference: of good and evil, black and white, sanity and insanity. In the end, what we're left with is …nothing.
Heart of Darkness is probably the title that has aroused, and continues to arouse, most literary critical debate, not to say polemic. This is partly because the story it tells has the visceral simplicity of great myth, and also because the book takes its narrator (Charles Marlow), and the reader, on a journey into the heart of Africa. ()
Heart of Darkness is set right after the , the period of the late nineteenth century None of the Western countries really come off looking good in this whole debacle, but Belgium, unfortunately, looks particularly bad. They were after the valuable ivory hidden away in the African Interior, and they weren't afraid to the Africans in order to get it. Heart of Darkness follows the disturbing journey of English ivory-trading agent Marlow, who, working for a Belgian company, travels into the jungles of Africa in search of a mysterious man named Kurtz who appears to have (1) become a god-like figure, and (2) gone totally off his rocker.
When looking back on the experience, Marlow says; often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness.....one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned eyes.
Diploma Topic Question
Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator(s) about the role that self-preservation plays when individuals respond to competing demands.
Through the text of
Heart of Darkness
, author Joseph Conrad paints his readers a picture of the competing demands of "civilization" and honesty, ultimately putting forth the idea that self-preservation will naturally side with the prospect of civilization, rather than the prospect of entering into one's own "heart of darkness", and that individuals who have experienced civilization will always eventually gravitate towards it over honesty for the sake of preserving themselves.
And then there's this big question: does Heart of Darkness deserve literary praise....even if it is racist? Achebe has some thoughts on that matter:
Basically, Achebe's arguing that the fact that Heart of Darkness uses Africa as a semi-mythical place is exactly the problem. By mythologizing Africa, Africa is portrayed as this big, bad Other that white Europeans get lost within. By using the structure of a myth or fairy tale (Marlow's journey down the Congo is a little bit like Red Ridinghood going to Grandma's) Conrad is legitimizing the idea of Africa as mythological. And that's racist as all get-out.
[Heart of Darkness has] Africa as setting and backdrop which eliminates the African as human factor. Africa as a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril. Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind? But that is not even the point. The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world. ()
Before Marlow even begins his tale, the reader is presented with a contrast between a civilized view of one's own life, and an honest view of one's own life through the contrast between Marlow, who appears to have developed an honest view of himself through his venturing into his own "heart of darkness", and the rest of the ship's crew, who view Marlow's entire existence as something foreign to them.
Let's talk about these seemingly disparate reasons for the kerfuffle that surrounds Heart of Darkness about a hundred and twenty years after it was published: it a) seems like a myth and b) it takes place in Africa. For , the fact that "myth" and "Africa" go hand in hand in Conrad's work is a problem. A huge, racist problem.
Set in the African Interior and based on Conrad's own experiences as the captain of a Belgian steamer, Heart of Darkness isn't much like the rousing adventure story that it sounds like. It's less Indiana Jones and the Ivory Traders than, psychological horror with a dash of the horrors (the horrors!) of colonialism. And in February of 1899, readers of Blackwood's Magazine—a , kind of like The New Yorker—were treated to the first of its three parts.
Suggested essay topics and study questions for Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Perfect for students who have to write Heart of Darkness essays.