Heart of Darkness: Themes, Motifs & Symbols

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Heart of Darkness is well written book by Polish- British Novelist, Joseph Conrad, wherein, he tries to explore the heart in contrast to the outward setting of Civilisation, which reveals the dark and complex nature of a human by the voice of Charles Marlow’s narrative. Kurtz is a very relevant character in the master-piece, through his character analyses and tragedy, the writer tried to shed a light on darkness of human nature and the destroying influence of the same on human race.

To begin with, the set-up of a novel is done in the 20th century and the symbolism of journey to the dark word of evil is its main essence. The places which are darkest in a human soul is what this novel tries to dig in. Kurtz, the central character signifies death of the darkness. At last, the message is clearly conveyed that the evil practices, if mastered by any will drag him/her towards darkness and death. Through Kurtz, readers are made to believe that the world of darkness is full of false hopes, determination and glory, initially. But, in the end the dark world grabs the person and suck out all the good energies, leading to death. The novel also implicates that one should not be greedy and demanding.

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The evil and darkness which came to Kurtz was a result of his own deeds. According to Conrad, Kurtz was the person with the most amazing capacity and potential. Marlow met Kurtz, while he was traveling towards the inner station. Many people on the journey used to praise Kurtz and they supported his idea of a ruler. As Marlow saw the remains of ‘Fresleven’, who got killed in a scuffle with the natives, he saw the same fate for Kurtz in his head. Marlow was a sensible man and he could make out by just looking at Kurtz, how he will be doomed. Kurtz always used to believe in getting more and more, his greediness to get all the things in this world. He was completely inhuman and didn’t believe in the concept of humanity. He wouldn’t compromise anything for anyone as he was a real greedy and selfish person. Kurtz enslaved people as his mind was “capable of a fearless acting out of the whole past of human barbarism” (Watt, 1980, p.226) and he killed them furiously, whenever they used to rebel. He didn’t let even the smallest portion of Ivory get into the hands of Russians.

In addition, the representative of colonisers, Kurtz, took advantages of the weaker section of the society. The main reason of Kurt’s death was a society which was civilised yet depraved of human values. The only similarity between Marlow and Kurtz was that both were sent by the same authority to manage things in the society. One had a vision to deal people with integrity and humanity, whereas the other one was a failure who was always greedy of things in the colonial society. It is very regretful and sad that Kurtz could not get what he deserved, after all the hardworking he has done. The short-cut he took to the way of evil, brought him death and nothingness. The short career span of Kurtz as an Ivory agent and his life span was really saddening, but his wrong and evil ideology doomed him completely. Kurtz was often seen by Marlow, fighting with himself and his evil soul which was filled with no pain and restraint. Often, the wrong path of temptation and greediness lead to death and darkness and the same case was with Kurtz, which destroyed his soul by making him a weaker person whose destination was dark death. Kurtz was sucked by the fate’s wilderness and bad time, as he became the victim of history proving his ways and treatment wrong in every manner.

Furthermore, if we take this from the start, Kurtz is a talented person, who is a gifted musician and an artist who understood art better. He was a very strong leader and he had all the qualities to rule the world. But, as they say, only leadership qualities are not so important, there are other qualities namely “humanity”, which is always required to lead a better life and rule the world. Joseph Conrad, through this title ‘Heart of Darkness’ implicates the meaning of destruction, ruminations and the essential nature of evil. The novel gives a reader feeling of threat, that if wrong will be practiced then the outcome will be wrong too. But, if you be like, the protagonist, Marlow, your life will be glorified in a right manner. The ‘light’ always signifies good and positive which in further lightens the world. But once someone enters the world of ‘dark’ it is hard to take an exit as the evil energy drags you towards its negative power and then there is no backing out. So, through reading this book one can easily make out that following the area of good is always required, whereas if you follow the area of dark, it will destroy you like the character ‘Kurtz’. If we take it to the psychological level, slavery and darkness can never bring good to the society, whereas light and enlightenment brings positive energy and like Marlow, gets identified in the pages of history. The bad and dark space takes you to the pathway of dead and evil, but the pathway to good deeds and positive light always bring happiness and glory into the life of yourself and others living around you.

Apart from this, if we talk about the ‘evil’, Conrad clearly signifies that if we will follow evil as Kurtz did, it will become so threatening that they will claim our lives. By entering the passage of evil, a person will have to succumb to the temptation of evils, but if he has a strong substance to prevent it, he could get saved. According to the author, no matter whichever evil you explore, evil is evil anyway and the elements explored remains the evil, not any other thing. Therefore, Conrad’s novella The Heart of Darkness is about looking deeper and exploring the EVIL. There is no denying that the concept of evil is harmful and too dangerous, when it is used perniciously and misapplied without using sensitivity. The subject of evil and its consequences is particularly destroying and dangerous to those who practice it and it is also a subject which should not be abused in any case. (“Exploration of Evil in Heart of Darkness”)

Apart from this, if we talk about his socialization theory of evil Marlow and Kurtz give with the same motive to Africa, they came in search of some adventure. In initial reports, Kurtz also came for the three reasons namely, ‘humanising, instructing and improving but once he got to taste the power pill, there was no looking back for him. He did all the evil practices to bother the natives, he made them slaves and used them brutally to his own and company’s benefits. Whereas, Marlow was a great man who always believed in humanity and even tries to save a bad soul like Kurtz from dark death. But Kurtz knew deep down inside that he has done bad to so many souls and he cannot be saved anymore. His last words were: ‘The Horror, The Horror!’

Moreover, talking in terms of sociological theory signified in the ‘The Heart of the Darkness’, the author tries to implicate that the term is induced by the social scientists to the methodological reflection of philosophical and scientific attempts of description, conceptualisation and a fair analysis of a complex of the phenomena determined by the term ‘EVIL’. The scientific perception of modern times analyses the ‘evil’ in sociology, which is obtained from the writings of popular authors like Karl Marx, Karl Popper, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. The socio-philosophical level of the phenomenon of Evil was first started by Marx and Nietzsche. (Tamyra)

As Kurtz was greedy and craved for fame and power, the writer tried to implicate that no one should reach to the height of greediness, that he forgets how to behave like human and treat other people. His ultra-rude and bad behaviour is directly contrasted with the character of Marlow, to show the clear difference between BAD and GOOD. The cruelty is said to be the most powerful weapon which Kurtz had. It was disgraceful and inhuman to the rule the place like a very rude and insensitive dictator. He couldn’t save his life from the doom and bad repercussions, he created for himself over the span of his inhuman ruling period. Kurtz lost everything, he used to possess, the ivory, the station, the river and every little and big thing he used to own and boast off.

To conclude with, The ‘Heart of Darkness’ gave us a major learning that if we will practice inhuman nature full of greediness, our fate will also be like Kurtz, whereas if we will be like Marlow, practical yet humane, who cares for others, we will be able to save our lives from the world of darkness. So, the learning from ‘The Heart of Darkness’ written brilliantly by Joseph Conrad indicated the correct differentiation between a ‘clearer world’ and a ‘darker world’.

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Heart of Darkness: Themes, Motifs & Symbols. (2021, Jul 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/heart-of-darkness-themes-motifs-symbols/