Isolation From Society In Conrad´S Heart Of Darkness And Camus´ The Sranger

1267 words - 5 pages

In Heart of Darkness and The Stranger Joseph Conrad and Albert Camus manipulate different styles of language and structure, yet both emphasize the isolation of the protagonists from society. In Heart of Darkness Conrad employs descriptive language and metaphors about society while using minor roles in order to display Marlow’s isolation. Meanwhile in The Stranger Camus structures the story in two parts to capture both sides of Meursault yet still develops a simple and direct writing style throughout the story to keep the theme of isolation. Through the theme of isolation both Conrad and Camus present the idea that life can be meaningless if not shared with the company of others.
Joseph Conrad creates a motif of light and darkness within society, never quite placing Marlow on either side, and thus isolating him from everyone else. When first getting to shore, Marlow refers to the natives as criminals, creatures, and savages. This immediately gives the reader the idea that Marlow thinks himself different than them. One of the first things he notices when seeing them is their midnight black skin and that “each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain” (Conrad 70). By describing the dark skin of the natives, Conrad manipulates Marlow to think of them as the dark part of society. The chain ties the natives together literally but also figuratively. This metaphor is created to show the unity between the natives and that, whether by force or by choice, they stick together. Although the natives may not have much else, they have each other’s company which is later used to juxtapose the isolation in Marlow. When meeting the white men in the Congo, his reaction is quite different. After taking in the accountant’s white skin and attire Marlow “shook hands with this miracle… and [he] respected the fellow,” apparently relieved to meet someone who he thought to be like him (Conrad 73). However, later in the novel he is not as attached to anyone, white or black. As the story progresses Marlow is more distanced from the characters in the book and when speaking to them he does not express his true feelings. Since the whole novel is a metaphor of light and darkness every character, except Marlow, is placed on either side. Marlow’s side is not apparent which sets him apart from the rest of the characters and creates a sense of isolation about him.
Conrad further isolates Marlow by emphasizing his role in the novel while obscuring the roles of the other characters. The flashback of the novel is told in first person by Marlow, giving him a sense of egocentrism. Because he only tells what he experiences and sees, there is no way for the reader to know, and much less understand, the natives and white men in the Congo. Seeing as the reader is only given Marlow’s point of view, she can only fully sympathize with him. Furthermore, the reader senses the disgust that Marlow has towards the other characters. When the Russian tells Marlow...

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