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Opposing Cultures in "Heart of Darkness"

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Introduction

"Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him-all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination-you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." (p. 106) In the center of the plot of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness stands the idea of two opposing cultures and the battle between developed and primitive. That conflict is portrayed through the eyes of Marlow, who is sent on a mission in Africa. Readers are able to follow the change in his opinion about whether the more dominant civilization is necessarily the better. ...read more.

Middle

There is a slight change in the way he describes the environment and there certain beauty can be found behind the way he talks about the "wilderness that stirs in the forest". This moment definitely contrasts "the utter savagery" which opens the passage. A more positive attitude can also be found in the fact that Marlow mentions "the hearts of wild men". While it may seem as a rather insignificant detail, it is not a frequent occurrence for a member of the more developed civilization to use this kind of phrase. The use of the word "heart" implies that the Africans are complete human beings who can feel emotion, as opposed to the then-common belief that they are mindless savages. In addition, Marlow shows interest in the way "wild men" think and feel, which again differentiates his perception of them from the stereotype. No longer are Africans simple, but on the contrary, their culture seems so complex that Marlow is having difficulty understanding it. ...read more.

Conclusion

Marlow is not just one of all the ignorant "civilized", he is someone who is not completely sure which culture is better. This internal conflict can be seen when Marlow talks about "the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate", which the fact that he cannot escape his current situation. Therefore, the only option he has left is to "surrender" to this new life and "hate" it for holding him captive, although this is really the fault of the more developed culture and that is where his anger should be directed. In his search of finding his place in the world, Marlow is stuck between two opposing cultures. He questions what the Europeans stand for, but he cannot completely distance himself from them, since he has been part of them for quite some time. While the jungle does seem appealing, it is still an unknown place for Marlow and he does not feel he truly belongs there. At the moment, the only option he has is to stay where he is right now, between two different worlds. ...read more.

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