• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Light and Darkness in Heart of Darkness.

Extracts from this document...


Course Name: ???????? Instructor:?? ?? Name:??? No:01041083 Date:2003/10/12 Light and Darkness in Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad mainly presents a sailor's adventure to Congo, the heart of darkness. Throughout the narrative, Marlow, the primary narrator, describes things he encounters during his voyage in terms of light or white and dark or black: the luminous scene of sunset at the departure, the dark African jungles, the white and black people's scuffle, Kurtz's ivory pate and the bronze bodies of his devotees......Behind these strong images of light and darkness, there lies a metaphor, at first equating light with glory, truth, recognition, civility, and darkness with decadence, lies, ignorance and savagery, but later shifting to the other way around with Marlow's penetration into the darkness and wilderness. Thus the voyage in this novella is not only one to the dark African jungles, but also a mythic descent into the primal underworld, a night journey into the unconscious self and a spiritual voyage towards transcendent knowledge. At the beginning of this novella, light is equated with glory and civility, while darkness with ignorance and savagery. "it has known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud ...the great knight-errant of the sea. ...read more.


However, as Marlow proceeds deeper into the heart of darkness, this metaphor begins to shift, the civility, knowledge, glory attached to light begin to fade, and savagery, ignorance, detestation suggested by darkness gradually become less intense. He is led to make a distinction between the surface truth and the hidden truth----"the overwhelming reality" which can only be gained experientially. He saw how the white "civilized" men, boasting "anything, anything can be done in this country" slaughter, suppress and exploit the black natives. He comes to realize that the black society, not savagery as he originally supposes, rather "has a right to exist". He states "I've seen devils of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but by all the stars! These were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils that swayed and drove men-men, I tell you. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly. How insidious he could be, too, I was only to find out several months later," "Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair." ...read more.


Back to Europe, Marlow withholds the real story of Kurtz's life and death from his Intended, a woman with fair hair, pale visage and pure brow, because "It would have been too dark----too dark altogether......" Marlow implies ladies, like Kurtz's Intended living in the fantasy created by the imperial, would be incapable of assimilating the profound truths. Darkness and blackness here signify positive qualities: immanent in Africa's dark wilderness are "overwhelming realities" and "invincible truths" inaccessible to empiricist modes of cognition and outside the narrow range of experience ratified by western cultures. In the end, the Thames "leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky-----seeming to lead into the heart of the immense darkness." This significant ending intensifies the meaning of the darkness, Marlow's moral, that shrouding in darkness may be the reality, truth, and light about civilization. In this novella, Conrad, through his depiction of a special geography location, a metaphysical landscape, a society of the colonists and the oppressed blacks, creates a strong contrast of light and darkness to reveal the cruelty, savagery, ignorance, arrogance and decadence of imperialism, and express his sympathy for the sick, hopeless, weak blacks and their emaciated culture and civilization. Therefore, Heart of Darkness is an attack on imperialism and a parable about the construction of the ethical values. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Joseph Conrad section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Joseph Conrad essays

  1. The Heart of Darkness Marlow's story of the Roman Conquest of Britain as an ...

    In Marlow's allegory, he says, "death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush." Marlow uses this same description later in the book to describe Africa. He goes to sit next to the ivory station while he was waiting for his ship to take him into the Congo

  2. DIscuss The Title Of Conrad's 'Heart Of Darkness'

    His first thoughts are about how futile and pointless all the work that is going on is. He describes one of the pits that has been dug, as 'just a hole'.

  1. Representation of Women In Heart of Darkness.

    This accentuates even more the power these women had and the fact that Marlow was then clearly thinking of his health- for which were symbolically responsible. He was aware that they had the power to keep him alive or let him die and that is why later in the text,

  2. Heart of Darkness

    but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom." At this particular moment in the "grove of death" scene, Marlow clearly feels like an outsider, as if he does not belong there.

  1. Explore the themes of justace and things not being as they seem in The ...

    In both of the stories the author creates suspense by make the setting of the story very detailed to set the right scene and also by adding twists which change what the reader would've first thought. In 'The Three Strangers' the start creates suspense when the first stranger is walking

  2. Explore how the authors present the 'darkness' of the human heart and the savagery ...

    Civilization, however, must be learned. London itself, in Heart of Darkness is a symbol of enlightenment, was once "one of the darker places of the earth" before the Romans forced civilization upon them. There is a clear implication in both books that civilization can be learnt just as easily as it can also be unlearnt.

  1. Compare Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now, both being examples of journeys ...

    facilitates the aforementioned affiliation between the physical journey and a mental journey ensuing. Kurtz was the best agent the Company had - and yet his journey has resulted in his oppressive and tyrannical demeanour; and he unleashed his maddened soul unto his surroundings.

  2. Discuss The Title Of Conrad's Novel 'Heart Of Darkness'.

    When getting off the boat, Marlow has to walk a short distance to the station. A theme of death arises immediately in the simile "dead as the carcass of some animal." Again this sentence is a warning of what is to come and he comes across another case of futility

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work