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Heart Of Darkness 10 Essay, Research Paper

Heart of Darkness

By: Joseph Conrad

The novel Heart of Darkness, was written by a man named Joseph Conrad in 1894. Conrad was born December 3, 1857 into a family of polish decent in the northern Ukraine. The backgrounds of his family members consisted of a father that was an avid translator of Shakespeare as well as poet, along with a mother, that while was prone to illness still was well read and very intelligent. When Conrad was five, his father was exiled into a prison camp in Northern Russia for alleged revolutionist plots against the government. Due to the harsh conditions of the prison, Conrad s mother died within three years and his father four years later. It was the death of his father that sent Joseph into a fit of melancholy, and it was within this sadness that Joseph turned to writing to ease his grief and carried his pain and suffering into most of his novels. After finishing his education in Krakow, Poland, Joseph went to sea, and from there sailed on and off for the next twenty years. These twenty years were the basis if not the absolute pure nautical theme that flows throughout many of his novels. Stories such as Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness are based upon true to life experiences that Joseph had while at sea. Another unique aspect of Conrad s writing, would be the lack of simple romance within all of his novels. This lack of emotional passion is most likely due to a drastic love affair when he was 17 that ended with an attempt to end his own life. Of Conrad s many works some include Nostromo, Typhoon, The Secret Agent, and perhaps his most famous work Chance, which made him an instant celebrity within literary circles. From his world-renowned success, Conrad became very rich, and paraded himself as the typical aristocratic high-hat, and for the most part was allowed to play this role, until his death in 1524 from a heart attack. He died and was buried at his home in Canterbury, England.

Within the actual story, Heart of Darkness, Conrad takes us into the mind and morals of a sailor named Marlow as he treks through the literal Heart of Darkness. This actual land is found deep within the dark jungles of the Congo River region of Africa, and serves as the central setting for this story. Throughout his journey, Marlow is confronted with the atrocities of slavery, and the cruelty that some men express to men whose only difference is the color of their skin, and legend of man that so few have seen. Finding himself in a land of greed and despair, Marlow dully meets through the words of others, his predecessor, Kurtz, who is known as a brilliant man that has dominated the ivory hunting and shipping business. Yet, as Marlow comes closer to Kurtz and to the end of his journey, the perception of Kurtz becomes increasingly more evil at his core. When Marlow finally meets with Kurtz, he finds a man completely lost within the scorn of his morals, and within this shell of man, Marlow sees seeds of disdain within himself. It is up to Marlow to put his morals under scrutiny, and decide whether or not to compromise his values for the sake of wealth and worldly possessions.

As we explore the depths of this story, we encounter the many different attitudes of the various characters that inhabit the novel. Although there are many characters within the story, no character can compare with the emotional battles that the protagonist Marlow faces within himself. From his personal standpoint, we can see and feel the distress that radiates from his body, knowing that it is always easier to give into expectations, than to take a stand for one s self. As matters of the heart and soul bear their weight upon Marlow s heart, he must confront his inner most demons, recognize his own wild and savage potential, and see beyond the false glory and prestige that the infamous Kurtz possesses. It is through Kurtz, that we see the hidden potential for Marlow to mutate into the frightful man whose soul [had become] mad. All this anxiety builds to whether or not Marlow possess the ability to turn away from the madness that can grow within men s hearts and overtake their souls.

It is through Marlow s character as a whole that Conrad is able to fully express the enormity of the inner conflict Marlow faces within himself. From the outside characters such as the antagonist manager who fills Marlow with mixed images of a man he utterly fears and loathes to the true success and ivory tycoon Kurtz had become. As the image and the meaning behind the name Kurtz gradually changes as the story progress, we also see a distinct change and metamorphosis in Marlow as well. Yet, Kurtz is not the only outside resource that molds Marlow s character, factors such as slavery on the black natives who are referred to as the less valuable animals in comparison to the livestock and transportation animals. These slaves are treated with such brutal hatred and disgust, that Marlow is constantly met with images of emaciated, mere skeletons of men working for white, plump, ignorant, bigots. Everywhere around him are visions of decay, not only in the physical and emotional aspects of various men, but in the abodes and boats that lay in ruin along the river. Even the jungle itself bears down on Marlow s heart, as everywhere he looks he is confronted with the loneliness and immensity of the ever-present jungle. Never knowing what each day had in store for him, and that everyday he remained in the jungle, the more susceptible he was to the ever waiting diseases that lurked within the darkness. All these outside forces eventually lead back to the effect that Kurtz has and gains over Marlow as Marlow comes closer to and finally meets with Kurtz. Although he heard stories of a man that once had a vision where Each station [along the river] should be like a beacon on the road toward better things, a center for trade, of course, but also for humanizing, improving, [and] instructing for all that pass through, Kurtz had changed into a man that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet [struggled] blindly within [himself] for the truth. A truth that only exists behind a soul that remains pure even in the midst of darkness.

In conclusion, it through Conrad s unique uses of imagery, diction, and irony that the Heart of Darkness, clearly shines through as a book of high regards and merit in many literary avenues. It amazes me that someone, who learned the English language at such a late age, could write with such eloquence and fluidity, and capture the essence of inner conflict and resolution. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in experiencing the true tastes of confusion, greed, hate, and madness, that exist deep within the pits of everyone s soul, and to know that we are susceptible to the darkness.

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