Sunday, March 1, 2009

Heart of Darkness

What did you think of Heart of Darkness? What does Conrad seem to be saying about "human nature" or the human psyche? Comments on his use of dark/light and black/white imagery? Other thoughts?

Also, did anyone else object to his portrayal of women? I mean, really:

"It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be" (77).

I'm just sayin'...

14 comments:

Aaron Nussdorf said...

I did not pick up the women thing. But, I did pick up a major and somewhat obvious critique of European Imperialism and the total abuse that Africa suffered. I find it very interesting that Conrad forces Europe to re-examine their motives and methods of African colonization. Specifically, I am taking about the scene(s) where Marlow is trecking through the wilderness and his [white] partner is dropped out of his hammock; whereupon, the companion demands that one of the Africans is shot. That entire interchange shows the blatant racism and class system that the Europeans imposed on Africa.
I found the depiction of Russians as crazy and evil-loving interesting because that manuever shows Conrad's person hatred of anything Russian.

Dean Elazab said...

Thats true, conrad defiantly wanted to show how badly africans were treated. The women thing was really not a big deal. I did not read one criticism of the book that even mentioned women treatment.

Stephen said...

I think that it is difficult to categorize human nature, however, if we try and figure out conrad's message, I believe that it is a person's actions when they are outside their ordinary surroundings. The man Kurtz seems like he was an ordinary faithful man based on the woman Marlow visits at the end, although in Africa he takes advantage of the local people and its cruel trade. Kurtz manipulates situations when he knows there aren't any consequences.

jp said...

I think Conrad's depiction of Kurtz shows how people's morals and judgment can go to hell when they make decisions in a vacuum. Kurtz answers to nobody, and there is nobody around him to even offer their opinion of what he's doing - such an absence of input and consequences from others turned Kurtz cruel, and maybe even a little insane.

We all like to pretend that we're not subject to groupthink, but without other people it becomes much harder to judge between right and wrong - especially after extended periods of time in a unique environment, like in Kurtz's situation.

Dean Elazab said...

I agree with john, when you have no one critiquing your acts, then you do not have the right and wrong scale.

joel derby said...

Yes, but I think it's also the fact that, when Kurtz and Marlow are put into the extreme situations they begin to lose their minds. When their minds begin to go, so does their sense of morality.

puddlewonderful said...

I think Conrad's message is very interesting when compared perhaps to the nature-loving romantics. We know and we've seen previous writers glorify people in their natural state, "primitive" societies. They've accused civilization of being a corrupting force and the process of creating civilization a process of moving further and further from purity and goodness. I think Conrad is claiming the opposite. He seems to see civilization as a series of harnesses, nets, or strings that keep one confined in virtue. Civilized society and civilized structure push back the amoral force of the wild and the primitive. Remove civilization, remove social constructs and taboos and norms, and man is left without a guide, without the harness of sanity provided for him by civilization and society. His wild nature escapes, his weak morals, which can only be reinforced by society, dissolve...

Dean Elazab said...

Taylor is right, in that setting, so far away to what the characters are accustomed too, it is easy to lose their morels and beliefs. Kurtz decided to take advantage of everything he could while he was in the jungle and try to make the best out of it, but that caused him to look crazy in the eyes of someone outside of africa.

Caroline said...

I think that Kurtz's lack of a supervising authority also leads to his abuse of power. Like yall said, the setting really effects the people and leads to their abuse of the natives. Also, I dont think they would be reprimanded for their abuse because they were producing so much ivory.

ndepass said...

i see comparison between this book and Things Fall Apart because they were both written based on the same concept; foreigners should not intrude on another culture and impose their will. it is simply immoral and wrong!

bballinsupasta said...

i wonder if kurtz really loved either one of the women in his life. i also thought it was interesting how the fiance said that he told her she knew him better than anybody. perhaps, she knew that he was going to drive himself mad. i also thought it was weird how the guy that took care of kurtz for a few years left him and went into the woods after marlow arrived.

Margaret said...

I guess this means that at man's core, he is wild and "evil". But in that setting, is there evil?

Isn't is just trying to survive at that point? Killing a person is wrong in our society... but in the wilds of Africa? It's all about survival of the fittest. So... only Europeans can be evil??? Lol I have no clue...

ndepass said...

I shall go back and say that i think Things Fall Apart is an all around better book. i was hooked the entire book and i couldn't stop reading at and the story had me engrossed in the novel and i couldn't wait to know what happened next, but with this book i was rather bored.....sorry......

Manal said...

I thought it was interesting the way Conrad made Marlow the storyteller who didn't actually have much to do. To me, it felt as if he was just there to depict how humans have this tendency to want to be superior and when given the chance not only do they get corrupt but also the power is too much for them to handle.