Juuxtaposition Of Light And Darkness In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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In life, people tend to turn a blind eye to or find it challenging to come to terms with their inner corruption, depravity, and despair. In Joseph Conrad’s profound novella Heart of Darkness, however, humanity’s darker side is addressed in a way that is impossible to ignore. Conrad’s meticulous utilization of diction and symbols captivates and enthralls the reader while also heavily contributing to the overall success and meaning of the novella. In his passage, Conrad, instead of adhering to the traditional notions of purity and evil associated with the symbols of light and dark, intentionally subverts and intermingles them to reveal underlying themes concerning the immorality inherent in human nature and the unbelievably horrific tragedies…show more content…
In reference to Kurtz, Marlow states, “One evening coming in with a candle I was startled to hear him say a little tremulously, “I am lying here in the dark waiting for death.’ The light was within a foot of his eyes. I forced myself to murmur, ‘Oh, nonsense!’ and stood over him as if transfixed” (64). In this scene, Kurtz is unable to see the light of Marlow’s candle even though it is only a foot away from him. The fact that he is incapable of distinguishing between light and dark anymore is extremely startling, and goes to show that the symbolic meanings of light and dark are in no way set in stone in the novella. If Kurtz cannot tell the difference between light and dark, perhaps there truly is no difference between them; Conrad is suggesting that light is an illusion which is actually infused with darkness. This is an overarching theme of the text, and is seen in various instances outside of the passage. For instance, the falsities of light appear near the beginning of the story with the image of the “whited sepulchre” (7), and appear at the end in Marlow’s quote: “I know that the sunlight can be made to lie, too” (67). In these examples, the purity of whiteness and lightness is utterly upended. Besides these examples, the theme applies to the novella’s overall commentary on basic human nature. Just as the meanings of the colors can be misleading, so can human beings. On the outside, humans present a facade of nobility and decency, but on the inside, they are comprised of
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