Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
In the novella, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses diction, imagery and syntax to create a mood of mystery in the scene where Marlow, the narrator, begins his journey up the coast. The reader gets caught up in a sense of wonderment, as Conrad’s vivid descriptions of this coast raise more questions than provide answers.
Conrad begins the paragraph by writing, “Watching the coast at it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma.” When one thinks about an enigma, or riddle, one attempts to find an answer or explanation for it, and is usually hard-pressed to do so. As Marlow watches the coast pass by, he tries to figure it out, to explain it, to find an answer to it. However, like an enigma, it is confusing and mysterious, and figuring it out is extremely difficult.
In the next line, Conrad uses certain, paradoxical words to describe the coast, such as, “smiling” and “frowning,” “inviting” and “mean,” “insipid” and “savage.” The word choice here very effectively creates a mood of mystery, because Conrad choices so blatantly contradict each other. Although they cleverly describe the coast, these words have the reader wonder which of the descriptions is truly accurate, since for example, something cannot be both “smiling” and “frowning.”
The sentence structure of this line also helps to make the coast seem more mysterious, because contradictory words are placed right after one another. Instead of writing that the coast looks “inviting” in one section, and in a later section stating that it looks “mean,” Conrad places the terms next to each other in his description. The conundrum is overtly presented to the reader, with no attempt to conceal it.
Conrad, in his attempt to obfuscate the coastline, uses personification to convey an enigmatic image. At the end of the sentence mentioned above, he describes the coast as “whispering,” beckoning Marlow to “Come and find out.” What is there to “find out?” The coast has something that is waiting to be discovered, mysteries waiting to be uncovered, but Marlow nor the reader have any idea as to what they are.
In the following...