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The Freudian Model In Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

928 words - 4 pages

The Freudian Model in Heart of Darkness  
 

  In my essay I intend to prove Joseph Conrad's use of the Freudian model of the human mind, as portrayed in his characterization of Marlowe, Kurtz, and the "wilderness". Further, using that model I will explicate Conrad's ambiguous tone in Heart of Darkness.

First, I must define each figure in Conrad's novel with its appropriate Freudian psyche. These psyche are defined in an essay by Ross C. Murfin's essay, "Psychoanalytic Criticism in The Awakening":

"the human mind is essentially dual in nature. He called the predominately passional, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche the id, or "it". The ego, or "I", was his term for the predominantly rational, logical, orderly, conscious part. Another aspect of the psyche, which he called the superego, is really a projection of the ego. The superego almost seems to be outside of the self, making moral judgements, telling us to make sacrifices for good causes even though self-sacrifice may not be quite logical or rational."(Murfin 219)

We see the characteristics of Freud's "id" in the descriptions of Kurtz's savage actions as well as Marlowe's analysis as to why he acted this way:

"I want you to clearly understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him-some small matter which when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can't say. I think the knowledge came to him at last-only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude- and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating." (Conrad 138)

The novel portrays Kurtz's changed from the benevolent savior of "the savage people of Africa" and ivory trader, to a primal raider. Kurtz's primal actions include staking heads in front of his house, acting as a god, and attacking his own compatriots to maintain his "various lusts".

We can describe these primal actions and Marlowe's rationalization of them as "passional" and "irrational" when compared to "the exceptional man" he is described as by the other characters in the story (83).

Acknowledging Kurtz as a model of Freud's "id" the progression would be to define the second half to the duality of the human mind. The second half of Freud's duality of the mind is a combination of the ego and the superego. The ego represents the logical, rational state of mind and the superego sitting "outside of the self...

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