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Light and Darkness in Heart of Darkness.

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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.

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