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Representation of Women In Heart of Darkness.

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*ENGLISH LITERATURE ESSAY* REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN HEART OF DARKNESS By: Shoshanah Wall DJP "They- the women I mean- are out of it- should be out of it. We (men) must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse." The representation of gender in the text Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a very patriarchal one, seen through the eyes of the main character, a male, Charlie Marlow. Women are significantly omitted from the narrative and when they are present or talked about, they are not given names and are known as the `aunt', the `knitting women' and the `mistress'. Regardless of this, when they are included in the story, they all convey power that is not typical to what the men believed woman should have. Marlow's aunt, who had a small part at the very beginning of the novel, was a vital character in Marlow's story. If it was not for her he would have, quite possibly, never had the chance to become a skipper on the river steamboat Thames and travel to the Congo in Africa. Receiving a job from a woman in Marlow's time was not very common and Marlow considered this shameful: "Then- would you believe it? I tried the woman. I Charlie Marlow, set the woman to work- to get a job. Heavens!" What he didn't realise, was that his power was given to him by her- therefore making her powerful. ...read more.


It was almost if she forced herself into his memory. This conveys her power and that she made an impact on Marlow because why else would a young man remember back to an old woman on a straw-bottomed chair whom he saw for only a few minutes? Another powerful image which stayed in Marlow's mind was that of Kurtz's mistress "...a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman... savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent." These are not the type of things you would say about just any woman- she has strong sexual power which seems to cry out to Marlow and he is in awe. For a one minute he just stared at her: "...a whole minute passed, and then she made a step forward." This quote also shows she made her own choices and was a free spirit who was not going to be told what to do by anyone- let alone a man! She steps forward when she wants to- probably letting her sexual aura sink in. In this way she is like a temptress. We often think back to biblical times in the garden of Adam and Eve. The mistress represents Eve who tempted Kurtz with her sexual power and he gave into her- just like Adam- once again showing the power of women. The fact that she could not talk only made her outer and sexual power more prominent because that was what the focus was on. Although the mistress was with Kurtz, she was not bound to him and could leave him any time she chose. ...read more.


Then when Marlow lies to her about Kurtz's last words- readers are aware that he is does not believe she has enough strength (power) to handle that kind of truth. This lie is made to maintain women's "great and saving illusion". For this `powerless' woman Marlow wants to "help (her/women) to stay in that beautiful world of their own..." This is contrasted with the other three `powerful' women as they were not in "that beautiful world of their own". The aunt was almost in a `man's world'- finding power from others in high places. The knitting women were represented as being in the `after world' having power over people's lives and "guarding the door of Darkness" therefore having the power (like the men believed they had over women) of deciding who could come in to their world and who could not. Then there was the mistress: her personality and her `world' was the complete opposite to the intended (who was the representation of `powerless'). The mistress was considered wild, very sexual and uncivilised, living in an almost `animal world' obtaining her power from nature. The typical woman in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, is represented as not possessing much or any power. This is seen through the eyes of a man - therefore women are marginalised. They are excluded from the bulk of the story but when they do make an appearance, the `aunt', the `knitting women' and the `mistress' all convey some sort of amazing power that is not typical to Marlow's views and that men (of those times) do not consider or want women to have. ...read more.

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