The Heart of Darkness Literary Analysis

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1439 Words
Date:  2022-04-02


Joseph Conrad is a novelist who is greatly known. He is of the Polish descent, and he didn't speak fluent English. However, his written and prose English is excellent. As a child, Conrad led a harsh life. At three his father due to his political affiliations was imprisoned. Later on, due to tuberculosis both of his parents passed away and he went to Switzerland to live with his uncle. He, later on, left to the Sea and it was here that most of his works of literature began. As he was sailing up the River Congo, he got much to write in his work, The Heart of Darkness. In his work, Conrad makes use of a unique writing style to explore fundamental weakness of man and cause confusion in the world's existence by using the journey of his character on the Congo River. It is worth noting that, all the events that are depicted in the work of Conrad, The Heart of Darkness had a possibility of occurring anywhere, but he chose the Congo. In his work, Conrad brings out the central themes or ideas like imperialism, colonialism, good versus evil and racism. In the analysis, we shall also focus on how Conrad essence of light has contrast with darkness.

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Conrad's Exploration of Light and Darkness

It is crystal clear that when Conrad wrote the Heart of Darkness in mind he had a literary masterpiece that personified the contrast of light with darkness. Throughout the work of Conrad he uses the light and dark images to mold a vision out of them that enables the reader to get the metaphorical and literal meanings of the piece of work. Conrad uses light and darkness in his work of literature to bring out the representation of the two worlds; a civilized and uncivilized one. The light stands for the civilized world of human beings, and the contrast which is the dark side represents the savage and the primitive world of people. Conrad in his work says that his task which he is trying to achieve through the word that is written is to make the reader hear, feel, and after that see it. And it is clear it has been delivered because as a reader I am made to see by diagnosing the images of light and darkness.

Marlow, a sailor who is an ordinary person with utopian dreams is hired a riverboat captain and embarks on a fascinating but dark journey to seek the chief legend of the trading company of Belgium. The story of Conrad explores of the period of colonialism in Africa and the struggles of Marlow. Marlow faces death, insanity on the way but his fear of failing and determination help him make way to the station. Within Conrad's story, Marlow also narrates to the reader and the crew about the yesterday's darkness. On approaching the African coast, as a reader we able to envisage of what was left by the great explorers as colonies. Over time these colonies do not get up. They barely expand as the years come and go by. Civilization apparently has no place in the primitive African cultures. This is a clear indication that light has not gotten a chance to penetrate through the darkness. The people are afraid of the men who they consider evil who are allowed to rule as gods. Many African tribes had fallen victims of the colonialism and the cruelty that came along with it. As Conrad points out on the evils that came with the imperial traditions, he aims at exposing the chances of wickedness that human beings possess. Vividly, through his work of Heart of Darkness, Conrad uses some sickening images to illustrate the terrible effects of colonialism.

The author postulates two narrators that are Marlow and another hidden character. The two narrators in the work of Conrad carry very important language that shows the different points of view and the human voices. Conrad can be accused of racism in the way the natives are portrayed in his work of Heart of Darkness. The manner in which the natives are depicted can only imply they can non-essential. However, it is clear, and we can argue that without the natives in the novel, the story would be incomplete. In the story we also see Marlow developing a relationship with one the native people.

The Portrait of Darkness in the Congo

The Heart of Darkness is a story revolving around a journey of one man to the Congo. The whole story brings out a portrait of darkness as it emanates from the jungle's depths. This gross darkness fills men around the Congo with evil and makes them act on it. Take an example of darkness that is found within Kurtz, the station manager. He performs dissipation in the jungle, and we see that eventually he gets sick and dies. Kurtz can be seen as a catalyst for change and a person who could bring out the failures of the Europeans in the African Congo. However, he was not aware of his evils, and it is clear that he could not fight the darkness or the evils within. His journey to Africa turned out to be characterized by the darkness within himself. As from the word go, Kurtz was a good man, and it was an expectation that he would be able to bring civilization in Africa.

The Theme of Good versus Evil

There is also this classic theme within the novel of Heart of Darkness by Conrad which is good versus evil. The term evil in Conrad's work of Heart of Darkness is brought out in three or four main ways; the first one we see it in the cruelty amongst the natives of Congo, then in the mysteries of the character known as Kurtz, and in the characters set in which they reside. This is brought up apparently in the conflicting ideas that exist between the world that is civilized and the uncivilized savage world and as well the contrast that exists between light and darkness. It can be that everyone has its own Heart of Darkness, which portrays that in every individual there exists evil. Further, in Joseph's work of literature, it is clear that any attempt at defining a cultural line is likely to prompt corruption, evil, and greed as from the white man. Knowledge seems not to counters the hatred lines, and this enlightens us that there exists that inescapable darkness which has a place in each man's heart. In the novel, all through we see that the white man has been weighed down by a hefty definition of the Heart of Darkness. As much as the use of darkness is repeatedly used, there has been a lot of interpretation of the same word. The critics don't seem to agree what exactly the word darkness means. There have been different conclusions on the usage of the word darkness.


Indeed, in the Heart of Darkness by Conrad, dark and light are diverged. It is clear that light in his work stands for the corruption and falsehood that is in the world represented by the white man. On the other hand, dark is an emblem of truth. The darkness depicts the innocence and pureness of the human race. As one could read through, again and again, the title Heart of Darkness can be ambiguous of to whether Conrad implies of the dark heart of Kurtz or the darkness that emanates from the interior of the jungle. However, I tend to think that the latter makes much sense as to the evils and abuse portrayed by the white men that grew intensely to the jungle's center. There is another symbol that Conrad used of the Thames and Congo River waterways. He used these symbols to bring to light what connection existed between darkness and humanity. The two rivers flow into each other and ultimately lead the heart of immense darkness, and this shows how humans are linked with the truth and the heart of darkness. Finally, Heart of Darkness is a novel that depicts the perils of lust, greed, and how corrupted the values and ideals of humankind have been engulfed with darkness. Greed for power and riches can at times make our heart and mind dark and turn our intentions that are good to be twisted to become something that is oppressive and evil.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of darkness." Heart of darkness. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 1996. 17-95.Booker, M. Keith. A practical introduction to literary theory and criticism. Longman Publishing Group, 1996.

Conover, Matt. HEART OF DARKNESS: The Hypertext Annotation. The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 23 Nov. 2003. Web. 19 Nov. 2010. <>.

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The Heart of Darkness Literary Analysis. (2022, Apr 02). Retrieved from

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