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Irony In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

1044 words - 4 pages

Irony in Heart of Darkness

 
   The use of irony within the ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Conrad is an important notion.  Irony in this novella helps to bring about encapsulating self-discovery and enlightenment of the self.  Furthermore the use of characters and what they represent also brings about communicating what it means to be civilised.  Thus these two facets shall be the focus within my essay.

Firstly each of the main characters in Heart of Darkness plays a significant role in the overall theme of the novel, as mentioned above. The central character is a thirty two year old sailor, Charlie Marlow. He is a dynamic character who essentially controls the development of the theme. Through Marlow's experiences and revelations, the author illustrates how forces of light and darkness serve to weave the human soul together; thus, essentially how both good and evil are reflected within the individual. Marlow's journey leads him in an urgent search for Kurtz, the one man who can provide him with the truth about himself.

One central theme that prevails throughout the novel is mankind's capacity for good and evil. Illustrated in the evolution of the two central characters, Marlow and Kurtz. Both symbolize the two conditions of human nature.

"Kurtz represents what man could become if left to his own intrinsic devices outside protective society. Marlow represents a pure untainted civilized soul who has not been drawn to savagery by a dark, alienated jungle." (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation).

When the two come face to face, each man sees a reflection of what he might have become in the other. In Kurtz, Marlow sees the potential for his dark self to emerge if he were to continue to survive in the savage soils of Africa. In Marlow, Kurtz sees himself as he once was: a man of innocence and civilization. Thus, Marlow and Kurtz symbolize both the light and dark forces of a single soul.

Like Marlow, Kurtz came to the Congo in hopes to bring "light" and civilization to a backwards society. He is a highly educated, refined gentleman; yet, in the end, the brutal nature of the Congo forces him to resort to the life of a murderer and pilferer. The irony remains steeped in the notion that these people do not need help from these self defined. With his eventual physical and mental demise, he dies unknowing of the dismay held within his life.  Conrad supplies an opinion before we are introduced to his actions, with the name Kurtz itself having a symbolic meaning.

"The physical shortness in Kurtz implies a shortness of character and spirit" (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation).

Perhaps this shortness in character, some inferiority ingrained within him aids his eventual downfall.

Moreover the sense of irony is held both within the characters and the disparity that one can find between them. For example Conrad greatly contrasts between Kurtz's two mistresses. He portrays the black mistress as being fierce and...

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