Heart Of Darkness

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In his novella, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad sets the bulk of the story in the African wilderness, specifically on and around the Congo River. This treacherous and, at that time, minimally explored, region acts as the perfect backdrop for his narrative. The African landscape reflects Marlow’s evolving state of mind, establishes atmosphere and mood, and eventually comes alive through Conrad’s personifying imagery to play an active role in the story’s plot. Conrad utilizes his characters’ surroundings to juxtapose Europe and Africa, as well as offer a critique on the former’s imperialization of the latter. He presents Africa as a version of Europe's past. Marlow is telling this story on a different river, the English Thames, which is meant …show more content…

He expresses growing unease about his surroundings which he articulates with a reverential kind of fear. Gradually, Marlow’s descriptions of the land become more and more pointed, with “ ...the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth.” When Marlow hits upon the idea of getting rivets to fix the steamboat—which will enable him to make the journey up the river in search of the elusive Kurtz, he dances a noisy jig on the hollow metal deck. For the first time, the wilderness speaks back, with a “frightful clatter came out of that hulk, and the virgin forest on the other side sent it back in a thundering roll.” The forest’s echo can be read as a warning. It’s also an important moment for a more practical reason: it lays the groundwork for the wilderness to speak, and even to take action, later in the story. As the story develops, we close in on the climactic realization of the true character of the wilderness. The jungle seems to look at Marlow “with a vengeful aspect.” Unlike shackled nature back in Europe, the wilderness of Africa is malicious and dangerous, “monstrous and free.” There is a hopeful moment on the upriver journey when Marlow catches a glimpse of something, the fog lifts and he has a clear view of the towering, still, matted jungle with the sun hanging like a ball above it, but it proves to be a fleeting vision, a teasing hint of light in an otherwise uninterrupted descent into the “heart of darkness”. For the reader, the tension is increased because they cling to the hope, however slim, that Marlow’s determinedly pessimistic outlook toward the

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