. Explore the Idea of Darkness Throughout Heart of Darkness

. Explore the Idea of Darkness Throughout Heart of Darkness

Darkness can be defined as the partial or total absence of light, which may be translated into the inability to see. However simple this may sound, when applied to a human condition this has profound implications. It implies failing to see another human being, failing to understand them as an individual, and furthermore failing to establish any sort of sympathetic connection with him or her. Many critics have commented on the fact that Heart of Darkness proves Joseph Conrad to be a racist, in the means in which he displays the indigenous population of Africa.

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Furthermore, Achebe too has stated in his speech that the environment of Africa is used for the sole purpose of bringing out a vestigial darkness from the European character of Kurtz, thus demeaning Africa into a corrupt and hostile location. Many forms of darkness are thus present throughout the novel from the very title to the atmosphere described in Marlow’s narrative. The title Heart of darkness not only refers to a physical location inside Africa, but also to a state of mind and the grim consequences of imperialism.

The text considers the deep jungle of Africa as the heart of darkness both for its untamed and hostile wilderness and for its supposed “savages” – the black native Africans – who reside there, practicing certain non-European customs such as cannibalism. Also present are a few corollaries to darkness. The fog being a major one. “When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night. ” It is stated in the quote that the fog is more blinding than the night – which is the darkness in this context.

Because of the fogs obscurity, it may be implied that it gives enough information to begin making decisions but no means to judge the accuracy of that information. Marlow’s steamer is caught in the fog, meaning that he has no idea where he’s going and no idea whether peril or open water lies ahead of him. “You looked on amazed and began to suspect yourself of being deaf – then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. It is evident that as Marlow gazes on into the distance, his fascination heightens regarding forthcoming events and he appears to lose himself in his thoughts. Yet they are undetermined and shrouded in darkness leaving an impression of obscurity in his travels ahead. The particular idea connects to that of the imperialistic Europeans that travelled to Africa in order to civilize it. “We live in the flicker – may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday” may be interpreted as: For there to be light it must first be dark.

This results in both light and dark to coincide with each other, rendering colonialism as an act of producing a new way of life; which is based upon ideas of darkness, savagery and profound madness. “And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one the dark places of the earth. ” Marlow implies that the Thames too, was once uncivilized and hostile before it was colonized, the importance of this being that the Europeans blindly believed in the fact that they were colonizing Africa (represented as darkness) with their brute force in order to make it a better place. What redeems it is the idea only, an unselfish belief in the idea –something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer sacrifice to. ” Like the fog their ideologies were obscured and they were unable to see the accuracy of their decisions and its outcomes. Contrary to popular usage, light does not necessarily symbolize pure goodness or enlightenment here. Marlow makes the comment that “Sunlight can be made to lie, too. ” In fact, light often gives way to darkness in the novel. There are numerous instances of the sun setting and plunging the world into night. the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men” Although it is the sun setting the particular choice of words used does represent it in a darker light as if it is the death of something pure. Darkness represents the unknown, that which is feared, evil, silence, madness, and death. Furthermore when Marlow first enters the jungle ‘The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black’ it displays his European understanding of the wild and hostile environment he is presented in front of.

Further on in the narrative it is displayed that Marlow finally starts to feel a connection with the indigenous as a vestigial instinct inside him starts to “respond” to the shouts of the “savages”. Conclusively, darkness is used throughout the novel as a metaphor for various different things. From that of obscured ideologies to that of a vestigial darkness within an individual that exposes itself after exposure to ones pre-historic instincts. The title heart of darkness is both used to convey the message of darkness within us all as well as the fact that we have all in some means emerged from it.


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