Heart Of Darkness And London Essay

1176 words - 5 pages

Heart of Darkness and London were both written by writers who wanted to emphasize individuality over collective institutions. Joseph Conrad and William Blake, respectively, while separated by many years in their writings, both manifest the damage of a “civilization” where humans live within bounds. The authors argue that bounds, or principles, in civilization result in a society driven only by the thought of success. Both writers lived in a time during which their societies were undergoing rapid change. Conrad lived during the Age of Imperialism whereas Blake lived during the Industrial Revolution. In these two works, the writers argue that societies have become amoral – ...view middle of the document...

As a result, they accept their exploitation as inevitable.
In Heart of Darkness, the “prehistoric” Congo is the representation of society without any “mind-forg’d manacles”. When the Europeans observe the native tribes, they regard them as “savage” compared to their own principled way of life. Yet it is actually the Europeans who are savages. They have been ignorant of actual human nature and have used their sense of ethnocentrism to enslave the native peoples. The natives are the embodiment of the unity between man and nature. “They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces,” Marlow recalls. The sense of living drives the lives of these native peoples rather than the thought of success.
The Russian trader is the character foil of Kurtz, because even though he lives with Kurtz in isolation, he fails to show the depravity that Kurtz does. This is because he is not deluded by the rewards of the ivory trade. Marlow was astonished at how the Russian possessed “absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure” which gave him a “modest and clear flame.” This spirit of adventure is the motive behind the Russian trader’s actions, in contrast to Kurtz’s drive for success.
Kurtz becomes corrupt from the own psychological restrictions he has placed on himself as a member of civilized society. Stemming from his notions of superiority over the native tribes, Kurtz has developed an insatiable desire for self-glorification not only through worship but through the ivory trade that has resulted in his moral deprivation. Marlow remarks on how Kurtz has “kicked himself loose of the earth”, with “nothing either above him or below him”. This not only addresses Kurtz’s savageness, but also illustrates the amorality with which he acts towards others.
Before Kurtz dies, he utters “the horror, the horror”. Marlow remarks at how the knowledge of Kurtz’s ruthlessness came to him “last, only at the very last.” We must realize that Kurtz shows dual personalities. Marlow even says: “the shade of the original Kurtz frequented the bedside of the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in the mould of primeval earth.” Marlow describes how he himself was regarded as an “emissary of light” like Kurtz. But Kurtz became corrupt as he fell into the ivory trade. This temptation is not particular to Kurtz. Before he dies, he utters: “the horror, the horror”. In fact, the moment before he dies comes his greatest moment of enlightenment. Marlow describes: “…perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that...

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