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Conrad’s Heart of Darkness


Conrad s Heart of Darkness ENGL 203 Dr. Fike Handout on Modernism Be sure to read the handout I sent on Modernism. Note: Heart Of Darkness is NOT stream of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Conrads Heart of Darkness
  • ENGL 203
  • Dr. Fike

Handout on Modernism
  • Be sure to read the handout I sent on Modernism.
  • Note Heart Of Darkness is NOT stream of

Modernism in HoD
  • What principles of modernism are at work in
    Conrads novel?
  • Primitivism
  • 1643/135 Going up that river.
  • 1645/137 we were traveling.
  • 1655-56/147-78 how can you imagine.

Another Principle of Modernism
  • The unconscious mind
  • 1645/137 The collective unconscious (Jung)
    The mind of man is capable of anything.
  • 1638/130, top par. Reference to dreams It
    seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream.
  • Dramatization of the psyche (Freud)
  • Superego Europe
  • Ego Marlow
  • Id Africa
  • Points
  • Marlow has to mediate between competing extremes.
  • The trip enacts this psychomachia, as well as a
    descent into the unconscious mind.
  • Experiences become more dream-like as the voyage

Ways of Responding to the Unconscious
  • Ignore darkness of the unconscious mind
  • 1630/122 Accountant (oblivious)
  • 1633/125 Manager (hollow)
  • Be overcome by the unconscious mind
  • 1673/165 True, he had made that last stride.
  • Be aware of it but resist it with the help of
  • 1673/165 Since I had peeped over the edge
  • Melville, Moby Dick Look not too long into the
    fire, O man!but do look!

Conrads Inversion of Freuds Triad
  • Here is what one assumes
  • Superego Europe (self-restraint)
  • Ego Marlow (attracted to both)
  • Id Africa (barbarity)

  • Key Characteristics
  • Contradiction, not paradox
  • Separating a word from its referent
  • Conflating or reversing binary oppositions

Key Details
  • 1656/148 All Europe contributed to the making
    of Kurtz.
  • 1657/149 He had no restraint.
  • 1662-63/154-55 Mr. Kurtzs methods had ruined
    the district.
  • 1649/141 Why in the name of all the gnawing
  • What point emerges (next slide)?

Heres the Point
  • Superego Africa (self-restraint)
  • Ego Marlow (attracted to both)
  • Id Europe (barbarity)
  • The primitive people are more self-restrained
    than the Europeans. Conrads novel deconstructs
    Freuds triad.

Deconstruction Contradiction
  • 1623/115 whited sepulchre (cf. Matthew
    2327) tombs should be dark
  • 1634/126 faithless pilgrims pilgrims should
    have faith
  • Kurtz tall guy with a name that means short
  • He was just a word for me (1638/130)
    signification is arbitrary.
  • Kurtz German, short (1664/156).
  • He looked at least seven feet long (next line).

Setting and Narration
  • On a yawl in the Thames estuary (interminable
    waterway, 1618/110 a waterway leading to the
    uttermost ends of the earth, 1619/111).
  • We have an accountant and a manager on the yacht
    in anticipation of the accountant and manager we
    meet later on.
  • Sense of human solidarity.
  • The narrator is one of Marlows listeners one
    of Marlows inconclusive experiences (1621/113).
  • Marlow looks yellow on 1618/110cf. 1624/116 I
    was going into the yellow (on a map).

  • What details suggest that this will be a tale of
  • Take a few minutes and work with a partner to
    locate suggestive details on the novels first 3
    pages. What things suggest literal or moral

A Tale of Darkness
  • Gravesend (1618/110)
  • the sun sank low (1619/111)
  • Erebus and Terror
  • the monstrous town (1619/111)
  • a brooding gloom (1619/111)
  • And this also, said Marlow suddenly, has been
    one of the dark places of the earth (1619/111).
  • Romans (1620/112) Although civilization makes
    progress, the human heart stays the same. But
    darkness was here yesterday.

Next Activity
  • 5 minutes
  • Discuss the end of paragraph 1 on page 1620/112
    The yarns of seamen to the spectral
    illumination of moonshine.
  • Do this in connection with 1638/130 It seems
    to me I am trying to tell you a dream.
  • What points emerge?

  • Two types of tales
  • Manifest content (nut) vs. latent content
  • The difficulty of communicating the experience
  • As regards the unconscious and the primitive,
    Marlow journeys into a nonverbal realm.
  • Fog image of obfuscation (1650/142) the
    blind whiteness of the fog

Marlows Stops on His Voyage
  • He visits his aunt and then crosses the English
    channel (1623/115).
  • First stop the sepulchral city (1623/115ff.)
  • Visits company office (1623/115-1624/116)
  • Sees the two knitting women (1624/116)
  • The three fates Clotho spins, Lachesis
    measures, and Atropos cuts.
  • We know that Marlow will survive because Atropos
    is not there. The journey will not cut short his
  • Visits the doctor/phrenologist (1625/117) the
    changes take place insidei.e., a psychological

Marlows Journey
  • He returns to say goodbye to his aunt
  • Says negative stuff about women on 1626/118
    Its queer how out of touch with truth women

  • 1627/119 Marlow sees a man-of-war firing into a
    continentshelling the bush.
  • This is an image of futility parallel to the
    following things
  • a hole in the bottom of his pail (1633/127)
  • Making bricks without straw (1633/127)
  • The so-called faithless pilgrims (1634/126)
    fire into the bush on 1652/144.

Outer Station
  • 30 miles up the river, he meets the accountant on

Central Station
  • Marlow meets the manager and brick maker
  • 1637/129 this papier-mâché Mephistopheles
  • This is also where Marlow gets his boat.
  • 1640/132 The Eldorado Exploring Expedition
    passes through.
  • What is the significance of the EEE?

En Route
  • Marlow
  • Finds Towsons book (1646/138)
  • Loses his helmsman (1653/145)
  • Remembers Kurtzs report (1656/148)
  • And meets the Russian, who looked like a
    harlequin (1658/150).

Inner Station
  • Marlow meets Kurtz.

Key Details
  • 1624/116 Dead in the centre.
  • 1626/118 the centre of the earth
  • 1627/119 catacomb
  • 1629/121 the gloomy circle of some Inferno
  • 1631/123 the very bottom of there
  • 1653/145 death of the helmsman
  • 1655/147 He had taken a high seat amongst the
    devils of the landI mean literally.
  • What is the point of these details?

  • Marlows journey is like a descent into hell.
  • Aeneas loses his helmsman on the way to the
  • In the Inferno, Satan is frozen in the ice at the
    bottom. If Kurtz is at the very bottom of
    there, then Kurtz Satan.
  • The difficulty of returning 1641-42/133-34
    hell is easy to enter but difficult to return
  • Hell in literature is both a physical place and a
    psychological stateand so it is in Conrads
    novel as well.
  • The farther Marlow goes up the river, the more
    intense the experience becomes parallel to
    descending into the Inferno.

Dantes Hell
  • http//
  • http//
  • http//

Questions for Day 2
  • References to women appear on 1623, 1624, 1626,
    1630, 1655, 1665, 1671, and 1675ff.  Do you agree
    with Johanna M. Smith that "the whole of his
    Marlow's story is seen to be a manful effort to
    shore up imperialism through patriarchy, through
    the nineteenth-century ideology of separate
    spheres"?  (The quotation is from her essay "'Too
    Beautiful Altogether'  Patriarchal Ideology in
    Heart of Darkness.)
  • According to Marlow, how does one overcome
  • What do you make of Kurtz's report on 1656-57?
  • What does the presence of the Russian add in
    section III (1658ff.)? 
  • What do you make of "The horror!" on 1672?  What
    does Kurtz mean?  Is Marlow right to call it "a
    moral victory on 1673?
  • Marlow lies to Kurtz's fiancée, the Intended.
     What do you make of this?
  • What has Marlow learned from his experience?