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Exploring Characters And Subliminal Undertones In Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

1645 words - 7 pages

There are three main topics to discuss when it comes to analyzing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness - symbolic interpretations, character development and language. Heart of Darkness has an abundance of almost subliminal undertones.  This novella is written to such precision and high detail that almost every paragraph has a significant part to play in the overall plot. The author, Conrad, concentrates on creating a story to illustrate ideas and themes, rather than just a simple narrative. These ideas and themes are constantly pitched at the reader in a very intense and unrelenting manner, which makes them all the more powerful. Therefore, even a passage of just five pages can have a remarkable amount of detail to discuss. 

 

As it happens, pages 54-59 are some of the least symbolic in the entire novel. Nevertheless, it still contains some important points to note. The theme first introduced on page 34, about the two types of devil,' is enforced here by the descriptions of the manager and his uncle, who are both clearly "flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil[s] of a rapacious and pitiless folly.• Neither of them would be particularly keen to take direct action against Kurtz; they would much prefer a less involved way of removing him from their worries. This is shown by their deliberate failure to get a doctor to Kurtz, as well as their personalities generally.

 

Their is another possible reference to devils and their religious connotations on page 54, when Marlow describes the arrival of the Eldorado Exploring Expedition as "a visitation.• This word can have two meanings: A formal visit or inspection, which is the initial interpretation one could make of Marlow's (or Conrad's) use of the word; however, it can also be used to mean a form of divine punishment. This is a very good example of the hidden depths to Heart of Darkness, in which things can have more than one meaning.

 

The final two areas of notable symbolism in this passage occur on pages 58 and 59. Both deal with the idea that the flabby devils' (the manager and his uncle) are not entirely human. This idea has to be carefully interpreted, however - both characters clearly are human; Conrad is really implying that their minds, their souls, may not be entirely what one may consider human. On page 58, the uncle is described as extending "his short flipper of an arm.• This, as with the visitation' quote, described above, can be interpreted in two very different ways: The uncle is apparently overweight ("He carried his fat paunch with ostentation on his short legs,• page 55), so describing his arm as a flipper' could simply be emphasising his excess weight, causing his arm to look misshapen; it could also be interpreted to suggest the inhuman aspects of the man.

 

On page 59, Marlow describes how their shadows "trailed behind them slowly over the tall grass without bending a single blade.• This, again, can be taken literally - after all,...

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