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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Three Hearts if Darkness

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Throughout the novel Conrad uses the motif of the heart to thoroughly explain how dark people and places really can be. Conrad uses the heart as a symbol for the entire continent of Africa. The heart is also used to show what the heart of mankind truly is. Another use of the heart is as a representation of the inner station, which shows the darkness of exploitations through Kurtz. The different uses of the heart are amplified through such literary devices as irony, imagery, and metaphors.


Africa, according to most maps, is at the center of the world just as a heart is the center of the body. However, the Europeans did not know much about Africa. There was a blank spot on the map that kept Africa dark and hidden from people. Marlow decides to go to the heart of the world to explore the Dark Continent. Conrad shows just how dark and mysterious Africa is by using metaphors to describe parts of the continent; He refers to the Congo River as an “uncoiled snake”. This type of metaphor creates great imagery and lets the reader know just how dark and dangerous Africa really is. Africa is also considered dark because everything that Marlow encounters here is considered evil. He sees great darkness in the exploitation of the native.


The darkness of Africa directly ties into the heart of mankind. The white people that go to Africa to exploit the native show how cruel and evil men are when they receive benefits for their doings. Conrad uses vivid imagery to paint a picture to convey just how bad conditions are on the natives. Marlow says, “They were dying slowly- it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now- nothing but black shadows of disease, starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom” (6). This passage depicts the conditions of the slaves; the one’s who were victims of man’s evil and darkness. Despite how bad things were for the natives, the Europeans felt no sympathy for them and this is the same for the rest of mankind, according to Conrad. The accountant is a perfect example of how the rich felt towards the poor. He once says, “The groans of this sick person distract my attention. And without that it is extremely difficult to guard against clerical errors in this climate” (). This comment is indicative of the heart of mankind. Mankind shows no sympathy for others when its own comfort is in danger.


The inner station represents the third use of “the heart” in the story. Marlow starts his journey at the outer station and slowly makes his way towards the inner station. As Marlow travels more and more the evil that he encounters gradually increases. At the outer station he first meet the manager who has traces of evil. However, once Marlow reaches Kurtz he finally realizes how dark it is at the heart of darkness. The way that Kurtz exploits the natives is appalling to Marlow. Not only does Kurtz physically exploit the natives but also he does the same thing emotionally. Kurtz has so much control over the natives that even the chiefs bow down to Kurtz. Kurtz single handedly disrupts the natives’ lives. He lets his desire for ivory come first over the culture and traditions of the natives. The darkness in Kurtz causes the natives to treat him like a God. He has complete power over what is not truly his. The dark role that Kurtz plays is similar to that of the devil. One piece of irony in Kurtz is at his deathbed when he cries, “Horror, horror.” These worlds briefly describe the conditions of Africa and the inner station. This is ironic because Kurtz is the person that is creating this “horror”. Kurtz shows the reader how the heart of darkness is definitely present in the inner station.


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The heart of darkness has several different meanings. Conrad uses several different things to represent the heart. However, in every case the heart is shown to be evil and dark. Conrad’s argument is quite effective considering that he does not have one thing or person represent the heart. Instead he uses the heart as a symbol for many different things. Conrad uses imagery to make the darkness of the heart that much more evil. The literary devices uses, such as metaphors, point of view, and irony were equally effective in displaying the heart of darkness. After reading Conrad’s work it is evident that there are many hearts of darkness in the world.





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