Response Paper to Heart of Darkness

My main aim of reading Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness I was to get something useful and new from the book. I thought that it would be a kind of adventure novel with a twisted plot. Being aware of the fact that Joseph Conrad traveled a lot I hoped that this story would contain some interesting facts from his biography and would be really interesting.

Joseph Conrad’s work Heart of Darkness was published for the first time in 1899. I found the text interesting and exciting but at the same time difficult for perception and this fact can be explained by the genre of the work, twisted plot line, time of narration and two different narrators. It is almost impossible to define the genre of Heart of Darkness – it is a combination of colonial literature, frame story, adventure tale and a romance story. Genre of the story is hard to defined but the readers can see that Conrad was fond of symbolism in his depiction of events.

The action takes place at the end of the 19th century ”“ in the 1890s years ”“ in England, in Brussels and then in Congo. The lifestyle, values and habits of that time differs greatly from the values of the modern society and some actions can seem senseless or even ridiculous for modern readers. In the book there are two narrators: the first narrator is an anonymous passenger and the second one is Marlow, the main protagonist of the story.

The first narration is spoken in the first-person plural. This anonymous narrator presents four passengers who listen to Marlow’s story. Marlow, in his turn, retells his own story. He presents story in his own eyes and he depicts only what he has seen or experienced.

Another fact that is interesting but at the same time is difficult for interpretation is the usage of numerous symbols in the work. Even the weather during the whole story is symbolic ”“ it is almost all the time dark and foggy. There can be made a parallel between fog and darkness.

Fog prevents Marlow and other passengers from finding the way. In fact, Marlow not only fails to find the way during his voyage, he also gets lost in the variety of information presented. He does not know which facts to believe. His ideas about European imperialist policy are ruined. He becomes the witness of the Company’s brutal and cruel attitude towards its African employees. He realizes that European values are breaking down in the African surrounding.  Darkness being a symbol also has a deep conceptual sense. Everything is plunged into the darkness in the book. Darkness presents a metaphoric meaning and it can be interpreted as an inability to see other people around. In that conditions people stop being individuals who cooperate with each other, they lose their human nature. “It was unearthly, and the men were””No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it””the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity””like yours””the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar” (Conrad, 146). That is one of the messages the author tries to deliver his readers. Other important themes in the work are the hypocrisy of the imperialistic epoch and the madness, as a result of it.

For me, this book is very useful because it helped me to understand serious things: we should stay human beings in any situation and in any circumstances. Social surrounding is extremely important because due to its influence people’s individualities are formed. People should never forget that they are not animals and that social integration with other human beings differs them from animals. We were born to live in a social surrounding and it is there our values and outlook is formed. From the first pages we find out that Kurtz is considered to be mad. However, later we start thinking that this is only a relevant madness. Madness is the result of social isolation. Despite the fact that social norms limit people’s freedoms they are necessary for normal functioning of the individuality and our security.

Joseph Conrad presents us a hypocritical imperialistic society of the 19th century. He shows the degradation of human values, people at that time are occupied only with such things as power and money. It is a time of colonial invasions and people start forgetting that they live surrounded by other people. The scenes of cruelty, brutality and torture are common scenes of that time. Native Africans are treated as slaves. All these shameful facts of the past are perfectly depicted by the author.

The book keeps you in tension till the last page. What I want to know is whether this book contains real facts from Conrad’s biography and what influenced Joseph’s idea to write such a book. It is also interesting how it was perceived by the readers of the 19th century and how has changed the book’s interpretation from that time till nowadays.

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