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Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
  • A Tedious Look at Conrads Life, Works, Themes,
    and Motifs in Heart of Darkness, and Apocalypse

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Josef Teodore Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski was born
    in Podolia, Ukraine, in1857.
  • Conrad's father had studied law and languages at
    St Petersburg University and wrote radical
    poems and plays.
  • His father and mother, Apollo and Ewa, were
    political activists. They were imprisoned seven
    months and eventually deported to Vologda
  • Conrads mother died of pneumonia in 1865.

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Apollo tried to educate his son himself, he
    introduced him to the work of Dickens, Fenimore
    Cooper and Captain Marryat in either Polish or
    French translations.
  • His father died of tuberculosis and his funeral
    was attended by a thousand admirers
  • Conrad was raised by his uncle attended school
    (he was disobedient)
  • In 1874, Conrad went to Marseilles France and
    joined the Merchant Navy
  • Gun running for the Spanish and a love affair led
    to a suicide attempt.

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Conrad became a British merchant sailor and
    eventually a master mariner and citizen in 1886.
  • He traveled widely in the east.
  • He took on a stint as a steamer captain (1890) in
    the Congo, but became ill within three months and
    had to leave.
  • In 1896, he married Jessie George a typist from
  • Conrad retired from sailing and took up writing
    full time.
  • Writing took a physical and emotional toll on
    Conrad. The experience was draining

Joseph Conrads Works
  • Almayers Folly (1895)
  • Lord Jim (1900)
  • Heart of Darkness (1902)
  • Nostromo (1904)
  • Under Western Eyes (1910)
  • Chance (1914)

  • After a long stint in
    the East had come to
    an end,
    he was having
    trouble finding a new
  • With the help of a
    relative in Brussels he got
    the position as captain of a steamer for a
    Belgian trading company.
  • Conrad had always dreamed of sailing the Congo
  • He had to leave quickly for the job the previous
    captain had recently been killed in a trivial

  • While traveling from Boma (at the mouth)
    to the company station at
    Matadi he met Roger
    Casement who told Conrad stories
    of the harsh treatment of Africans
  • Conrad saw some of the most shocking and depraved
    examples of human corruption hed ever witnessed.
    He was disgusted by the ill treatment of the
    natives, the scrabble for loot, the terrible heat
    and the lack of water.
  • He saw human skeletons of bodies left to rot -
    many were bodies of men from the chain gangs
    building the railroads.
  • He found his ship was damaged.
  • Dysentery was rampant as was malaria Conrad had
    to terminate his contract due to illness and
    never fully recovered

Narrative Structure
  • Framed Narrative
  • Narrator begins
  • Marlow takes over
  • Narrator breaks in occasionally
  • Marlow is Conrads alter-ego, he shows up in some
    of Conrads other works including Youth A
    Narrative and Lord Jim
  • Marlow recounts his tale while he is on a small
    vessel on the Thames with some drinking buddies
    who are ex-merchant seamen. As he recounts his
    story the group sits in an all-encompassing
    darkness and passes around a bottle.

Varied Interpretations
  • There are many different interpretations of this
  • Some see it as an attack on colonialism and a
    criticism of racial exploitation
  • Some see Kurtz as the embodiment of all the evil
    and horror of the capitalist society.
  • Others view it as a portrayal of one mans
    journey into the primitive unconscious where the
    only means of escaping the blandness of everyday

    life is by self degradation.

Themes Motifs
  • Darkness
  • Primitive Impulses (Kurtz, previous captain)
  • Cruelty of Man (Kurtz, the Company)
  • Immorality/Amorality (General Manager/Kurtz)
  • Lies/Hypocrisy (Marlow chooses Kurtz evil vs.
    Companys hypocritical evil)
  • Imperialism/Colonialism
    (The Company)
  • Cruelty
  • Greed
  • Exploitation

Themes Motifs
  • Role of Women
  • Civilization exploitive of women
  • Civilization as a binding and self-perpetuating
  • Physical / Psychological
  • Barriers (fog, thick forest, etc.)
  • Rivers (connection to past, parallels time and

  • Paul OPrey "It is an irony that the
    'failures' of Marlow and Kurtz are
    paralleled by a
    corresponding failure of
    Conrad's technique--brilliant though it is--as
    the vast abstract darkness he imagines exceeds
    his capacity to analyze and dramatize it, and the
    very inability to portray the story's central
    subject, the 'unimaginable', the 'impenetratable'
    (evil, emptiness, mystery or whatever) becomes a
    central theme."
  • James Guetti complains that Marlow "never gets
    below the surface," and is "denied the final
    self-knowledge that Kurtz had."

Response to Criticism
  • Conrad, writing in 1922, responds to similar
    criticism "Explicitness, my dear fellow, is
    fatal to the glamour of all artistic work,
    robbing it of all suggestiveness, destroying all
    illusion. You seem to believe in literalness and
    explicitness, in facts and in expression. Yet
    nothing is more clear than the utter
    insignificance of explicit statement and also its
    power to call attention away from things that
    matter in the region of art."
  • Marlowe, the narrator, describes how difficult
    conveying a story is "Do you see the story? Do
    you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to
    tell you a dream--making a vain attempt, because
    no relation of a dream can convey the
    dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity,
    surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of
    struggling revolt, that notion of being captured
    by the incredible, which is the very essence of
    dream . . .No, it is impossible it is impossible
    to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch
    of one's existence--that which makes its truth,
    its meaning-- its subtle and penetrating essence.
    It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone."

Interpretations Marxist
  • A depiction of, and an
    attack upon, colonialism in general
    and, in particular, the
    demonstrated in the Belgian Congo.
  • the mistreatment of the Africans
  • the greed of the so-called "pilgrims"
  • the broken idealism of Kurtz
  • the French man-of-war lobbing shells into the
  • the grove of death upon which Marlow stumbles
  • the little note that Kurtz appends to his
    noble-minded essay on The Suppression of Savage
  • the importance of ivory to the economics of the

  • Conrad pursues a sociological investigation into
    those who conquer, those who are conquered, and
    the complicated interplay between them.
  • Marlow's invocation of the Roman conquest of
  • cultural ambiguity of those Africans who have
    taken on some of the ways of their Europeans
  • the ways in which the wilderness tends to strip
    away the civility of the Europeans and brutalize
  • Conrad is not impartial and scientifically
    detached from these things, and he even has a bit
    of fun with such impartiality in his depiction
    the doctor who tells Marlow that people who go
    out to Africa become "scientifically

Psychological / Psychoanalytical
  • Conrad suggests that Marlow's
    journey is like a dream or a
    return to the
    primitive past - an exploration
    of the dark recesses of the
    human mind.
  • Similarities to the psychological theories of
    Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung Dreams offer clues
    to hidden areas of the individual and collective
  • Humans are primitive savages, capable of
    appalling and horrifying impulses. (the Id)
  • Note that Marlow refers to Kurtz as a voice which
    seems to speak to him from the heart of the
    immense darkness.

  • Heart of Darkness as an examination of various
    aspects of religion and religious practices.
  • Examine the way Conrad plays with the concept of
    pilgrims and pilgrimages.
  • The role of Christian missionary concepts as a
    justification for the violent and irresponsible
    actions of the colonialists.
  • The dark way in which Kurtz fulfills his own
    messianic ambitions by accepting the role of God.

  • Heart of Darkness is preoccupied with general
    questions about the nature of good and evil,
    civilization and savagery
  • What saves Marlow from becoming evil?
  • Is Kurtz more or less evil than the pilgrims?
  • Why does Marlow associate lies with mortality?

  • Threes There are three parts to the story, three
    breaks in the story (1 in pt. 1 and 2 in pt. 2),
    and three central characters the outside
    narrator, Marlow and Kurtz
  • Contrasting Images (light and dark, open and
    closed, civilized and savage)
  • Center to Periphery Kurtz Marlow Narrator
  • Are the answers to be found in the center or the

  • Heart of Darkness was published in the Late
    Victorian-Early Modern Era but exhibits mostly
    modern traits, which include
  • A distrust of abstractions as a way of
    delineating truth,
  • An interest in an exploration of the
  • A belief in art as a separate and privileged
    human experience,
  • A desire for transcendence mingled with a feeling
    that transcendence cannot be achieved,
  • An awareness of primitivism and savagery as the
    condition upon which civilization is built, and a
    corresponding interest in non-European peoples,
  • A skepticism that emerges from the notion that
    human ideas about the world seldom fit the
    complexity of the world itself, and thus a sense
    that multiplicity, ambiguity, and irony in life
    and in art are the necessary responses of the
    intelligent mind to the human condition.

  • Apocalypse Now a film directed by Francis Ford
    Coppola, starring Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall,
    and Marlon Brando.
  • Based on Conrads Heart of Darkness.
  • Set in Vietnam. Captain Willard (Marlow) is sent
    on a mission to kill the renegade Colonel Kurtz.
  • Parallels physical setting, colonialism, savage
    vs. civilized, irony, insanity, darkness

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