0What do you think are the themes in Heart of Darkness?

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2 0What do you think are the themes in Heart of Darkness?

3 Heart of Darkness Themes Civilization vs. Savagery (Darkness in Man) 0 The book implies that civilizations are created by the setting of laws and codes that encourage men to achieve higher standards. It acts as a buffer to prevent men from reverting back to their darker tendencies. 0 Civilization, however, must be learned. 0 London itself, in the book a symbol of enlightenment, was once "one of the darker places of the earth" before the Romans forced civilization upon them. 0 While society seems to restrain these savage tendencies, it does not get rid of them.

4 Heart of Darkness Themes Civilization vs. Savagery - Darkness in Man (cont.) 0 The tendency to revert to savagery is seen in Kurtz. When Marlow meets Kurtz, he finds a man that has totally thrown off the restraints of civilization and has de-evolved into a primitive state. 0 Marlow and Kurtz are two opposite examples of the human condition. Kurtz represents what every man will become if left to his own intrinsic desires without a protective, civilized environment. Marlow represents the civilized soul that has not been drawn back into savagery by a dark, alienated jungle.

5 Heart of Darkness Themes Civilization vs. Savagery - Darkness in Man (cont.) 0 Every man has a heart of darkness that is usually drowned out by the light of civilization. However, when removed from civilized society, the raw evil within his soul will be unleashed. 0 The underlying theme of Heart of Darkness is that civilization is superficial. The level of civilization is related to the physical and moral environment they are presently in. It is a much less stable or permanent state than society may think.

6 Themes Absurdity of Evil 0 Much of Heart of Darkness is concerned with Marlow s struggle to maintain his sense of morality as power conspiracies rage all around him and the mysterious figure of Kurtz piques his curiosity. 0 Marlow s desire to do good grows increasingly futile as he is plunged into a world where no absolute goodness exists and the best he can do is choose between a selection of nightmares. Eventually, we see that the characters become unable to distinguish between good and evil. 0 Conrad illustrates this moral ambiguity with light and darkness imagery that often blends together, yet is imbued with an overall inevitably sinister shade.

7 Themes 0 Imperialism/Colonization (Belgian Company) 0 Cruelty of Man 0 Greed 0 Exploitation of People 0 Unlike most novels that focus on the evils of colonialism, Heart of Darkness pays more attention to the damage that colonization does to the souls of white colonizers than it does to the physical death and devastation unleashed on the black natives. 0 Madness is closely linked to imperialism in this book. Africa is responsible for mental disintegration as well as physical illness. 0 When one becomes so far removed from society s morals and restrictions, good and evil become relative terms. When these moral boundaries begin fading, Conrad suggests, man loses the sense of where he stands in the great moral struggle.

8 Themes Theme of Power 0 Many of Marlow s crew have ambitions of moving up the corporate ladder of the Company. Insatiable greed for wealth and power defines their characters. This greed quickly demolishes any sense of morality they may hold and we find a handful of them attempting to get in Marlow s good graces for the sake of his aunt s influences. 0 Kurtz s ambitions do not stop at merely moving up in the Company; he desires to prove himself superior to all Africans. Even Marlow is sucked in; he tries obsessively to get as close to Kurtz as he can both physically and emotionally. Marlow proves as attracted to power as any of his corrupt colleagues.

9 0List and describe some of the symbols in Heart of Darkness.

10 Symbols Fog 0 Fog is a consequence of darkness. 0 Fog not only obscures but distorts: it gives one just enough information to begin making decisions but no way to judge the accuracy of that information, which often ends up being wrong. 0 Marlow s steamer is caught in the fog, meaning that he has no idea where he s going and no idea whether peril or open water lies ahead.

11 Symbols Women 0 Both Marlow and Kurtz see women as symbolizing decency and purity. Women represent the potential for goodness in all humans, which is important to both men after having seen the heart of darkness and evil. 0 Marlow frequently claims that women are the keepers of naïve illusions; which is a crucial role, as these naïve illusions are at the root of the social fictions that justify economic enterprise and colonial expansion. 0 Women are the beneficiaries of much of the resulting wealth, and they become objects upon which men can display their own success and status.

12 Symbols The knitting women: 0 The two women Marlow encounters when he arrives at the offices of the Company represent the mythological Fates who spin, measure, and cut the thread of life. It is in the offices of the Company that Marlow s life is being measured out as he begins his journey into the heart of Africa.

13 Symbols Kurtz s painting: 0 The image in the painting resembles the figure of justice, but there seems to be very little justice in Africa. This image could also be another representation of Kurtz s idealized vision of women who must be kept ignorant of the darkness that he sees in the world.

14 Symbols The accountant: 0 The Company s accountant is the physical manifestation of the ethics of the company. What is important to the accountant is that he defies his surroundings. His physical appearance is elegant and pristine in an environment that is filthy and chaotic. He goes on with his work no matter what is happening around him, including people dying.

15 Symbols Ivory: 0 Ivory is the physical symbol of the greed and runaway ambition of the Europeans. They are willing to do anything, include sacrifice their own humanity, in pursuit of this treasure.

16 Symbols The Whited Sepulcher 0 The whited sepulcher is Brussels, where the Company s headquarters are located. 0 A sepulcher implies death and confinement. Europe is the origin of the colonial enterprises that bring death to white men and to their colonial subjects; it is also governed by a set of reified social principles that both enable cruelty, dehumanization, and evil and prohibit change. 0 The phrase comes from the Book of Matthew in the Bible, where it says the whited sepulchers are objects which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 0 Belgian colonies, particularly the Congo, were notorious for the violence perpetuated against the natives.

17 Symbols The Congo River 0 The river resembles a snake, and the snake symbolizes the idea of temptation and evil. The river leads Marlow and the other Europeans into the heart of the continent where the temptations prove to be too much for many of them. 0 Marlow s struggles with the river as he travels upstream toward Kurtz reflect his struggles to understand the situation in which he has found himself. The ease with which he journeys back downstream, on the other hand, mirrors his acquiescence to Kurtz and his choice of nightmares.

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