The 'Heart of the Darkness' is a novella written by Joseph Conrad that narrates a story about the experiences of a seaman called Marlow during his voyage to the heart of Africa Congo. Despite being a seaman, Marlow was obsessed with exploring the world and at his age, he had explored most placed expect a few with Congo being one of them. His aunt helps him to secure a position as a captain and an agent in an ivory trading company based in the heart of Africa and he took this as an opportunity to achieve his objective of exploring the world (Conrad 11). Aboard a British ship called Nellie at river Thames are three men too who he narrates about the voyage to Congo. Marlow narrates the brutality and hate he witnessed along the way between the imperialists and the native Africans. On his arrival, he was told about a company agent called Kurtz who is deemed to be a god and at the same time a prisoner to the native Africans. The company praises Kurtz of his achievements and at one point Marlow learns that he was recommended by the same people who recommended Kurtz citing they had the same characters.
Marlow sailed up the Congo River in a bid to take his ship and meet Kurtz as well. On his arrival, he found his ship sunk and later realized it was Kurtz who ordered the natives to sink it. Apparently, Kurtz had become mad. During Marlow's stay at the company's inner station, he encounters horrific deeds such as Kurtz decorating the fence posts with the heads of the rebels, chained Africans who are accused of a crime even though Marlow could not tell what crime and Africans who were nearly dead crawling to the shade to get some rest. Kurtz tried to escape in the night but Marlow found him, convinced and saved him from the native Africans thereafter convinced him to travel back to Europe. On their way, they were attacked by the native Africans but eventually manoeuvred after which Kurtz succumbed to madness, disease and finally died. All these evil deeds are a symbol of darkness as far as literary devices are concerned. From the narration, it can, therefore, be deduced that the jungle is the heart of evil deeds that influence civilization and human behaviour.
To support the research topic and thesis, various literary devices were used by Conrad in his literary works. This research argument, therefore, aims to discuss the various literary devices and how they are used to emphasize and support the argument of this research topic and thesis.
Symbolism and Imagery
According to Aguirre, the symbolism was used as a literary device when one thing was used to represent something else especially as a western symbol in the horror literature (1). This literary device helps in creating meaning and emotion in literary works such as the one of Conrad. With the help of metaphor and allegory, one is able to create symbolism in a literary work. Symbolism is one of the most used literary devices in the 'Heart of Darkness' to create various meanings and emotions in the story.
The first symbol that is used in the story is light and darkness. On the contrary to common usage where dark always represents evil while light represents goodness, light, in this case, does not represent purity or goodness. The vision of the author is so dark and one instance, Marlow insinuates that at times the sunlight can be made to lie. In most cases in the novel, light gave way to darkness. Darkness represents many evil deeds as well as the unknown, madness, fear, and death. The white ivory in the jungle, the white sepulchre in the city and the women dressed n black attire all represented light and darkness even though the white, in this case, symbolized nothing good. Marlow compared the black men to the white men where the white men, in this case, were deemed t represent civilization and goodness. This was however not the case and Marlow potentially concluded that the white men were the same as the black men since they were evil and uncivilized which was the opposite of what was expected of them.
Another symbol of evil and darkness were the flies. Notably, the flies were mentioned when a slave died in chapter one and when Kurtz succumbed to madness and death in chapter three. The flies often hanged around the dead bodies and thus can only be associated with evil and death as mentioned that death lied in wait in the water, air, bush and people must have been dying like flies. The flies are also mentioned when Marlow was narrating his experience in the accountant's office when he spotted an ill man who could not groan and flies buzzed in great peace around him. This symbolized the foreshadowing of the death of the ill man. There was a steady buzz of flies on one occasion where a homeward-bound agent lied seemingly insensible and finished and would die anytime from then. This was another instance where flies are mentioned concurrently with death and thus symbolized the evil, horror, and darkness caused by the Europeans in the heart of Africa. There was a continuous flow of small flies on the cloth, the lump, and the hands and faces of Marlow. These flies appeared shortly before the manager's boy reported that Kurtz had died. Throughout the novel, the flies symbolized death that apparently occurred as a result of the evil deed of the Europeans in one way or the other.
There were severed human heads that were on poles surrounding the fence. These heads symbolized the evil act and excessive brutality of Kurtz. The appearance of the heads on the poles represents the graphic climax of the novel which conveniently comes near the plot climax. There have been horrible deeds in the heart of Africa but the head on the poles symbolized the evilest, brutal and horrible deed of all. Apparently, when Marlow narrates this instance, he does not seem to be in rude shock which leaves one wondering if his afore claimed humanity to the Africans was genuine. In his description, he combines horror with humour by mentioning that the dried sunken heads smiled continuously in their continuous dream of eternal slumberland. His whole description symbolizes his hidden evil thoughts even though he claimed to be better than Kurtz.
Before Marlow travelled to Congo, he went for a checkup by a doctor. The doctor proposed to asses Marlow's skull in a bid to justify whether those who travel to the heart of Africa are as opposed to becoming mad. The doctor's statements symbolize the foreshadow of the evil and the upcoming dander that Marlow was about to experience when he travelled to Congo. It is assumed that the horror that is experienced in the jungle would make one become mad and lose their sense of humanity just as it happened to Kurtz. Madness symbolizes evil and the horrific acts that Kurtz did to the native Africans especially those he considered rebels and were brutally murdered as well as those who died out of illness and lack of medication after long hours of offering labour to the ivory company. The assessment of Marlow's brain was deemed necessary by the doctor since even Kurtz went to the jungle as a normal man and came out one of many shades including a murderous and obsessed madman apparently due to the horror he experienced while he was in the heart of Africa.
The painting of a woman with a torch and a blindfold at the central station also symbolizes the horrific deeds of the European to the native Africans. It is purported that the painting was done by Kurtz. Even though women were considered pure and uninvolved with corruption, the painting had a deeper meaning in relation to the blindfold, the dark background, and the torch. The blindfold symbolized the unknown that the native Africans would never see even with the help of the Europeans. It symbolized how the European thought of the native Africans as blindfolded and those who would never become civilized. The torch symbolizes the aid that the Europeans assumed to be provided to native Africans in a bid to make them civilized which was never the case. The combination of the blindfold and the torch symbolized hoe evil the Europeans were since the acted to be enlightening and transforming Africans to be civilized while at the same time hindering them from seeing and becoming civilized. The dark background also symbolizes evil mentality of the European since they assume to be civilizing the native Africans yet back in their minds they know how horrific and evil the jungle is. According to Shmoop Staff, the torch in contrast with the background represents more darkness and light imagery (181).
In the novel, there is the man to god comparison aspect that saw Kurtz referred to as a god of native Africans and Marlow as well seen as a Buddha. The symbolism of Kurtz as god results from the fear he instilled in the native Africans and how he commanded them. Fear was instilled in the African slaves by evil deeds that were done to those who failed to obey Kurtz in his evil kingdom. He used his powers to command other natives to raid across the river or down the stream in a bid to loot and get more ivory. The god in Kurtz here symbolizes evil since he uses his godly powers to humiliate the native Africans and brutally murder those who rebel and fail to abide by his commands.
At the signing, Marlow narrates how she saw two women who were knitting black wool and dressed in black attire. To him, these women looked like the Moirae who was the goddess of fate who personified the fate of man. The two knitting women represented a foreshadow of the horror that was underlying ahead of Marlow's travel to the interior. Marlow was scared of the women and had a completely different feeling about them. When one of the knitting women walked towards him with downcast eyes, Marlow felt like trouble was right ahead of him and when he thought of moving the woman lifted her head and walked back to where she was seated without a word. These women would represent the goddess who would foresee and tell someone's fate. The fate they would foresee was only evil as can be represented by the black wool they were knitting. They could, therefore, represent the agents of the evil European.
In the novel, among the employees of the ivory company is the accountant. The accountant represents the face of the company and its evil deed. Despite the horror, the heat, poverty, and humiliation of the native African employees in the company, the accountant dresses elegantly and focuses on diligently completing the reports and bookkeeping without considering the welfare of the slaves. This symbolizes an evil and inhuman representation since he did not bother how many Africans was brutally murdered. All he cared for was for the company to be perfect and excel to secure more ivory. This symbolized the company's evil and callous act to the humiliated workers.
The theme is the underlying or main idea that is represented in a literary work and stated directly or indirectly (Macherey 33). In the heart of the darkness, there are various themes that suppo...
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