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The Terror Of Obesity Essay

1830 words - 8 pages

Human body has always been a profound symbol. In modernist writing, body, as it was, is a gendered theme. Female body has long been viewed in subtle connection with primitivism and sensuality. In patriarchy, corpulent female body is defined as and related to fertility symbol as traditional female role in the society is linked with reproduction. In this regard, corpulence becomes a part of femininity as well as a part of what Simone de Beauvoir calls “the eternal feminine” that is primitive and sensuous under male gaze; this in turn legitimizes woman’s immobility and shackle in domestic role under patriarchy. Female body is actually used against female by forcing women’s subjectivity into norms of body shape determined by men in a horrible way that incorporates body with female identity.
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a masculine world where women have very little role. Still, there are relatively feminine characters through which masculinity and femininity are defined. In Heart of Darkness, body weight is used as a sign system, indicating a sharp contrast between inefficiency and efficiency. The equation between inefficiency and fatness is set up through a series of minor characters. Marlow encountered two men in the company office, one is the secretary with “skinny forefinger” whom Marlow finds compassionate; the other, in contrast, “from behind [a heavy writing desk] come out an impression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. The great man himself”(Conrad 14). “An impression of pale plumpness” sets Marlow’s canon for everything in relation to inefficiency and corruption. What’s more, the foreman at the Central Station with whom Marlow dances with on the deck of his defunct steamer is described as “a good worker” with his “lank boniness and big intense eyes” (31). As Marlow values efficiency, “good worker” shows his admiration, and this compliment is given on the ground of the foreman’s thinness. In contrast, the head of the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, is depicted “to tear treasure out of the bowels of the land…with no more moral purpose…He carried his fat paunch with ostentation on his short legs” (32-33). It can be seen that Marlow subconsciously links his “fat paunch” with a lack of “more purpose”. Additionally, the “pilgrims,” Marlow’s sarcastic name for the company workers are oft depicted as fat, sluggish, and lazy. According to Heywood, most often, thinness is nearly interchangeable with “good” through repeated association, while fatness symbolizes negativity.
However, there are deeper gendered implication in the equation between fatness and efficiency. The pilgrims’ fat bodies actually symbolize their unrestrained rapacity and insatiable hunger, which reveals a typical pattern of femininity. The contrast between cannibals and pilgrims in the novel has manifested the difference between restraint and indulgence. Marlow becomes constantly perplexed of the situation that the twenty cannibals on board abstain from eating and show...

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