Heart of Darkness
Darkness permeates every circumstance, scene, and character in Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness. Darkness symbolizes the moral confusion that Charlie Marlow encounters, as well as the moral reconciliation he has within himself while searching for Kurtz. Marlow's morals are challenged numerous times throughout the book; on the Congo river and when he returns to Brussels.
Charlie Marlow characterizes the behavior of the colonialists with, "The flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly," (25). Marlow distinguishes "the devil" from violence, greed, and desire. He suggests that the basic evil of imperialism is not that it perpetrates violence against native peoples, or that it is motivated by greed. But that "the flabby, weak-eyed devil," the imperialists, seem to be distinguished by being foolish and unaware. Marlow is appalled by the apathetic attitude towards the sight of death, of the colonials aboard the Nellie. At the grove of the first station, Marlow is troubled by the sight of a man curled up, dying. "I saw a face near my hand…black bones…white flicker in the depth of the orbs, which died out quickly," (27). Marlow's horror at the grove suggests that the true evils of this colonial company are dehumanizing and deathly. Marlow offers a dying man a few pieces of a biscuit, and despite the fact that he is not particularly compassionate, the situation troubles him greatly.
During section two of Heart of Darkness, Marlow's professional skills, morals, and work ethics are contrasted with those of the other company employees. To Marlow, work represents the fulfillment of a contract between himself and the company he is working for. Repairing the steamer and then piloting it, he convinces himself, that he has little to do with the exploitation and horror he sees. However, he continuously interprets the actions in the world surrounding him. "Going up river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world…prehistoric earth," (59) reflects the Europeans inclination to regard the natives as primitive. Marlow's notion of traveling back in time is later reinforced by the arrows and spears that are used in the attack on his ship, "Sticks, little sticks, were flying about…Arrows by Jove, we were being shot at," (79). Marlow is distraught by the natives he sees along the river bank, "…and the men were--No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it-this suspicion of their not being inhuman," (62). Marlow realizes though that the natives are no different from an uneducated and ignorant European. This realization is significant to the personal development of Charlie Marlow and explains his treatment to the natives later in the novella.
Further insight to the relationship between Kurtz and the Russian trader is offered in section three. Although the Russian trader is naïve, he came to...