Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Analysis of Joseph Conrad’sHeart of Darkness: extract get downing ‘There is a contamination of decease, a spirit of mortality in lies’ ( Conrad 1946:82 ) , and stoping ‘without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river.’ ( Conrad 1946:83 ) .

Conrad uses a double degree of narrative technique by showing a first individual narrative within another first individual narrative. This non merely provides a window into Marlow’s narrative but a window into the basicallywindowlessuniverse of the human mind with darkness at its bosom. Before Marlow brushs Mr Kurtz he speaks of his disfavors and his frights:

There is a contamination of decease, a spirit of mortality in prevarications [ … ] what I want to bury. ( Conrad 1946:82 ) .

Conrad uses the footings ‘taint’ and ‘flavour’ as an dry mention to the artistic motion of the clip where in both art and literature imagination was used to rise and research the senses. [ 1 ] For Conrad the words embody something darker and more concluding: something that Marlow wishes to ‘forget.’ . However, in the new district Marlow finds himself able to determine the world around him ; the use of the spoken word has no boundaries here. Furthermore he believes he has control over the ability to fling dishonesty, yet this semblance is shattered:

I became in an blink of an eye as much of a pretension as the remainder of the bewitched pilgrims. ( Conrad 1946:82 ) .

The distance between what he perceives as honest and dishonest behavior is really no distance at all – they can go one another ‘in an instant.’

Conrad trades with many complex issues within the same paragraph, or sometimes even the same line. This watercourse of consciousness was a trait of the Modernists: it allowed writers to put many thoughts aboard one another on the page. As it was in an age that was going progressively secular, the expansive issues – such as Religion, Imperialism, Psychology – no longer stood within the context of Christianity, but all inhabited a different, gray country – someplace between religion and secularism. The decomposition of formal Christian worship meant a liberating up of clip and infinite for the person, but as Marlow experiences this frequently led to confusion and uncertainness:

He was merely a word for me. I did non see the adult male in the name any more than you do. Make you see him? Do you see the narrative? Do You see anything? It seems to me I am seeking to state you a dream – doing a vain effort, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdness, surprise, and obfuscation in a shudder of fighting rebellion, that impression of being captured by the unbelievable which is of the very kernel of dreams. . . . ( Conrad 1946:82 ) .

‘He was merely a word for me, ’ addresses important inquiries of individuality: What adult male can ‘see’ another when he can non see himself? The Modernist age, possibly more than any other, questioned the qualities of the word – how it appeared on the page ; its cogency ; its effectivity as an a artistic medium. Conrad punctuates the paragraph into short clauses, chopping up the gait. His inquiries – ’Do you see him? Do you see the narrative? Do You see anything? – are displaced to the reader as they are addressed to the storyteller. This has the consequence of disembodying the text, distancing its significance. As Marlow says, ‘no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation’ : that is, the indispensable life of the narrative becomes lost through storytelling Marlow’s urgency to be understood is reflected in the strength of Conrad’s narrative: the ‘commingling’ of the words ‘absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment’ in a ‘tremor of fighting revolt.’ Again we see the large ideas and feelings placed side by side in the same sentence, in this case mixing to go one another. Furthermore, it seems that the words, in their strength, are seeking to interrupt out of the signifier that there are in – this is typical of Conrad who was a advocate of new signifiers of fresh composing during the period.

The undermentioned interruption in the narrative allows Marlow and the reader to derive position:

He was soundless for a piece.

“ . . . No, it is impossible ; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given era of one ‘s being -that which makes its truth, its intending – its subtle and perforating kernel. It is impossible. We live, as we dream – entirely. . . . ” [ … . ]

For a long clip already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was non a word from anybody. The others might hold been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the ticker for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the hint to the swoon edginess inspired by this narrative that seemed to determine itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river. ( Conrad 1946:82-3 ) .

The image of the voice publishing from the darkness is inherently spiritual. YetHeart of Darknessis about life ‘alone’ – without God – about what can go on when worlds have the power to command. The effect is that the control slips off from them: this is symbolised by the ‘narrative that seemed to determine itself without human lips.’ The naivete of the hearer who waits for ’the sentence, the word, the clue’ – is set in blunt contrast to the ‘heavy night-air of the river, ’ whose darkness seems pregnant and purposeful – as if something out at that place already knows.

To reason, the Modernist urgency to research and detect new district was as of import in the literary universe as it was in the wider universe. Yet the job for writers – in an progressively secular age – ballad with the strength and cogency of the word itself, which is something that writers still work with today.


Barr, A.H, 1954,Masters of Modern Art.New York: Simon and Schuster

Conrad, J. , 1946,Young person: Heart of Darkness The End of the Tether. London: J. M. Dent and Sons

Further Reading

Bloom, H, 1987,Joseph Conrad ‘s Heart of Darkness.New York: Chelsea House

Lewis, P, 2000,Modernism, Nationalism and the Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


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