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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Heart of Darkness

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The Heart of Darkness of Civilization


In “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, Marlow takes a journey up the Congo River that enlightens him about the true nature of civilization. The things Marlow sees and experiences change his outlook on life and human beings forever. Through the journey that Marlow goes through, Joseph Conrad shows that human beings by nature are capable of selfish, cruel, and murderous acts.


Throughout the novel Marlow meets many men whom he cannot trust because of their selfishness. The object that every man wants in Africa at that point in time is ivory. Ivory consumes everyman’s thoughts and determines everyman’s actions. In the book, it is so important that “The word ‘Ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it.” (p. 168) It seems that every character Marlow encounters is just looking out for them self. “There was an air of plotting in the station,” Marlow say’s at one point “The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages. They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only on that account.” (p. 168) There was no friendship, nor love, among the characters in “The Heart of Darkness”, just selfishness.


In the book “The Heart of Darkness”, Joseph Conrad tells of many instances where men display horrific acts of cruelty to one another. These actions occur in the novel whenever the white men enslave the black men in their quest for ivory. In the book, acts such as “each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected with a chain” (p. 154) are examples of the torture men use on one another. There was just no value for human life. Many of the slaves in the book die alone in great misery, “Black shapes crouched, lay sat between the trees leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain abandonment and despair.” (p. 156) Even though the white men who come to Africa look, act and behave with more civility, deep down they have the same dark desires as the savages. Conrad writes of the similarities “They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity � like yours � the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly.” (p. 186) Man’s behavior in the novel “The Heart of Darkness” shows the cruelty and savagery that all humans are capable of.


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In the book “The Heart of Darkness” Joseph Conrad tells us that men are capable of killing each other when there are no rules to follow. The people Marlow encounter in his journey up the Congo River lose their value for human life. Marlow meets the company’s chief accountant who talks about sick men like they are animals; “The groans of this sick person distract my attention and without that it is extremely difficult to guard against clerical errors in this climate.” (p. 15) Marlow also meets a first class agent named Mr. Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz is described to Marlow as “ a very remarkable person” (p. 15), intelligent, educated, driven, a leader. After meeting Mr. Kurtz, Marlow finds out the true nature of the man while he reads a report written by him for “the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs” (p. 07) that reads at the end “Exterminate all the brutes!” (p. 08) Later on in the novel, Marlow sees the murderous acts Mr. Kurtz has committed first hand when he notices what Mr. Kurtz has used for a fence at his house. “They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the steaks, if their faces had not been turned to the house.” (p. 0) is Marlow’s reaction to the sight. In the book, normal, intelligent human beings, like the accountant and Mr. Kurtz are transformed into their natural murderous selves.


In his book Joseph Conrad shows that evil lies in all human beings. This is evident in the famous last words of Mr. Kurtz, which read “The horror, the horror!” (p.) reflecting on what Kurtz discovers about civilization. The truth being that all humans are selfish, cruel and capable of murder.








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