[2015] Jaide Bosen: The Heart of Darkness

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[2015] Jaide Bosen: The Heart of Darkness

Anonymous Passenger:This unnamed passenger listens to Marlow’s story and in the beginning speaks on behalf of the other four passengers. Although this person isn’t the focus of the story, Joseph Conrad made sure to give Marlow an audience to speak to. Without much talk about themselves, this anonymous person describes the four other passengers as they float down the Thames. The character illustrates, “The Lawyer-the best of old fellows...The Accountant had brought out a box of dominos…[Marlow] had sunken cheeks…” (66).Marlow:Marlow is the ever so skeptical protagonist of The Heart of Darkness. Storytelling is definitely Marlow’s strong point. His skeptical attitude and independent mind open a whole new door to “Marlow’s world”. Throughout the story Marlow’s philosophical perspective tends to deviate from what’s currently happening, but also allows the reader to peek into his thoughts. One thing you learn for sure is that Marlow has seen a lot of the world and plenty of low end white men to increase his skepticism toward imperialism. The only physical description of Marlow comes from the anonymous listener when he describes, “He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol” (66).Kurtz:Kurtz is a character that Marlow held on a very tall pedestal. In fact, meeting him was the object of Marlow's Congo adventure.The archetype of “evil genius” perfectly describes Kurtz.This was because Kurtz possessed the ability to lead men with powerful words and obscuring writings. Such writing were obscure because they masked this antagonist’s cruelty towards the natives and obsession with obtaining ivory. An example of Kurtz’s cruelty towards others are the several severed heads stuck on top of the fence posts surrounding his house. Although Kurtz becomes a terrifying enigma in Marlow’s eyes other people close to Kurtz thinks otherwise. For example, to Kurtz’s cousin he was a great musician. A journal testifies to Kurtz being a fantastic politician and leader. Lastly, Kurtz’s “intended”, or fiance, thought of him as a humanitarian and genius. An example of her love towards Kurtz is displayed when she says mournfully, “And all of this, of all his promises, and of all his greatness, of his generous mind, of his noble heart, nothing remains-nothing but a memory” (156).


Imperialism. Madness due to Imperialism. These are the major themes shoved into your face in The Heart of Darkness. The greedy Europeans have infested the Congo in search of ivory. This act of imperialism is justified as “trade” and an act to “civilize”, when in reality their actions are comparable to torture, dehumanization, and down right slavery. One such agent carrying out these punishments is Kurtz. This character is well known for his eloquence and ability to lead men, but Kurtz has been isolated in the Congo for so long that people suspect he’s dead. Although his physical body is still intact, his sanity is not. Alone in the wilderness Kurtz has no one to look up to or take orders from. This leads him to the realm of thought that he is a god of the native Africans and can do as he pleases. His secret to being such a successful ivory contributor is because Kurtz takes ivory by force from his worshippers and punishes “rebels”. Now a mad man, Kurtz believes the best way to make the “rebels” pay is to mount their heads on the fence posts surrounding his home. Due to the initial act of imperialism from the Europeans, Kurtz is driven mad and any other man is also maddened to a certain degree. In fact, Marlow, the protagonist, feels he’s so above the natives that in his retelling of adventure that the africans are merely machinery and scenery to set his stage.

The Heart of Darkness takes place in the end of the nineteenth century, around 1876 and 1892. Marlow, the protagonist, begins to tell his story about his adventure into the Congo while along the Thames River, just outside of London. Around this period English Companies were settling among the native savages, and here lies one of the major conflicts of The Heart of Darkness. This story’s setting is inspired by Joseph Conrad’s journey to the Congo in 1890. His experience perfectly illustrates a picture for the reader. For example, at the beginning of Marlow's campaign, he describes, “The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist” (77). Conrad goes into extensive detail to fully immerse the reader in this tropical environment and his comparisons really bring the Congo to life.

Period 7

The Heart of Darkness

By: Joseph Conrad


Glog by: Jaide Bosen 12/7/2015

Imperialism and ivory obscure humanities darkness

The Heart of Darkness wasn’t my type of book. Joseph Conrad is so descriptive and uses such long sentences I constantly lost track of where and what I was reading. The protagonist, Marlow, has an exceptional memory because there’s no way I could remember those events in such detail. Those details, however distracted me and it was awfully hard to realize what was happening. Another thing I noticed and Conrad’s writing style was that he doesn’t separate quotes when others were talking. I could generally figure out which character was saying what, but for once in this book the lack of words confused me. Only after reading a summary of The Heart of Darkness written by someone else did I see the deeper meaning of the book and understand it’s theme. There were very few characters so the plot was mainly seen from one, extensively detailed, view. The plot was interesting once I understood it, but the pace was slow to me until the end where it felt like Conrad just wanted to get all his ends tied up. The Heart of Darkness wasn’t particularly enjoyable and I can think of no one I’d recommend it to.



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