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Search For Truth In The "Heart Of Darkness".

1298 words - 5 pages

In Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" the idea of epistemology plays a major role in understanding the plot and character development. It is this philosophical study that prompts Marlow to go off in search of the infamous Kurtz and then recount his story, and it is what compels the audience to read further into the book. However, to understand the presence of epistemology in "Heart of Darkness" it is crucial to know exactly what epistemology is.The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines epistemology as the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity. The Encarta encyclopedia gives this definition: Epistemology is concerned with the definition of knowledge and related concepts, the sources and criteria of knowledge, the kinds of knowledge possible and the degree to which each is certain, and the exact relation between the one who knows and the object known. Simply put, epistemology is the search for knowledge. But how is this applicable to the Heart of Darkness?There are three different examples of epistemology in the novel. One example is Marlow's search for truth when he goes off into the Congo looking to capture the illusive Kurtz. Another example is Marlow's describing of his experience to the shipmates of the Nellie in hopes of exposing them to the same knowledge he came upon learning. The third and final example of epistemology in Heart of Darkness is that of the person who reads: the truth or knowledge that the reader goes away with after having read the novel.We first meet Marlow aboard the Nellie while speaking to the narrator and the other shipmates. These other shipmates represent who Marlow would have become had he not made the trip to Africa. They are ignorant to the outside world and uninterested in learning about it (they fall asleep while Marlow is trying to talk to them). While Marlow's trip up the river into the Congo is on the surface a mission to find Kurtz, symbolically is it Marlow is going into the jungle to find a part of himself. Like Kurtz, Marlow had only good intentions while making his way to find the rogue chief of the Inner Station. Marlow is the representation of who Kurtz had been upon entering the Congo, while Kurtz is a foreshadowing of what Marlow stands to become should he not learn and take heed from what has happened to Kurtz. While a progression into the wilderness seems to be like going back in time, it is also a testing ground for Marlow. He has to learn to suppress the 'savage' instincts that are imbedded inside of every human so that he does not become what Kurtz has become.From his contact with Kurtz, Marlow learns about the two sides of every man. He learns about the good, decent, law-abiding side, and he also discovers the human capability of evil. Kurtz, having been away from his own culture and society for so long, had allowed himself to fall into a primitive behavior. He hoarded ivory and allowed humans to be murdered, their heads...

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