Wednesday, March 27, 2013


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Examine the context surrounding the period of the late 1800s to the first world war consider the social political and economical conditions prevalent to Europe and in particular England and Belgium . What were the values and attitudes exhibited by the Europeans during this period and reflected in the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad


Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts or literary devices that can help to develop and inform major themes

What are the major themes of Heart of Darkness and how are they supported by motifs in the story?


Symbols are objects characters figures or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts

Examine Conrad¡¯s use of symbolism in the novella what do these symbols represent

Due term week 1 Thursday

That¡¯s all exactly what it says on the sheet

English Assignment

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness centers around Marlow and his journey up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, reputed to be an idealistic man of great abilities. Marlow takes a job as a riverboat captain with the Company, a Belgian concern organized to trade in the Congo. As he travels to Africa and then up the Congo, Marlow encounters widespread inefficiency and brutality in the Companys stations. The native inhabitants of the region have been forced into the Companys service, and they suffer terribly from overwork and ill treatment at the hands of the Companys agents. The isolation of the cruelty within the impassive and majestic jungle that surrounds the white mans settlements makes them appear in the heart of darkness.

During when this book is written, Imperialism is an attitude commonly shared and exhibited by the Europeans during this period. Imperialism is the policy or practice of extending national power over other states or areas of the world, often by annexing territory. Term is most commonly identified with 1th century colonialism and the carving of the globe into spheres of influence by the European powers. Colonies in Asia and Africa supplied cheap labor, raw materials, and ready markets for European manufacturing, spurred on by the Industrial Revolution. They also enhanced the image of European powers. Imperialism was also linked to concepts of racial and moral supremacy, rationalized as the White Mans Burden, the so called duty to bring civilization to backward peoples.

Imperialism is at the center of Heart of Darkness. By the 180s, most of the worlds dark places had been placed at least nominally under European control, and the major European powers were stretched thin, trying to administer and protect massive, far-flung empires. Cracks were beginning to appear in the system riots, wars, and the wholesale abandonment of commercial enterprises all threatened the white men living in the distant corners of empires. Things were clearly falling apart.

The major theme of Heart of Darkness is the effect of imperialism and the isolation and obscurity of the corruption. It reveals that corruption is the inevitable result when men have unbalanced control and power, especially power over other men. As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally up the river to the Inner Station, he witnesses scenes of torture and cruelty. Yet he longs for evidence that Europeans can

display pure purpose, rational power, and benevolent dominance over Africa and Africans. Marlow can never see the Africans as fully human and he can never bring himself fully to condemn the imperialist project in Africa. By lying to Kurtz¡¯s fianc¨¦ and doing nothing to stop the devastation caused by the imperialism in Africa, he is accepting the inhumanity of mankind to its fellow man and allows it to continue on the Dark Continent. And because of the isolation of the cruelty taken place, Europeans can never see the chaos caused by imperialism.

The story used motifs to develop and inform the major themes. Observation was the most common motif applied. Marlow mainly collects information by observing the world around him and eavesdropping on other conversations. Like when from the deck of the wrecked steamer he overheard the discussion between the manager and his uncle about Kurtz. This presented Marlow with interpretations of events otherwise impossible to find out.

Obscurity is another motif used. The mood of the entire novel is dark and somber. It is night-time on the Nellie when Marlows tale is being told. The darkness suggests the ambiguity of havoc and moral confusion. And in the end, the story ends such that it seems Europeans would never have a clear vision of the Dark Continent.

Symbols are objects characters figures or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Some symbols used in Heart of Darkness include the fog that surrounded the steamer going up the river. It symbolizes darkness and ambiguity surrounding the whole story. Fog not only obscures but distorts; it gives one just enough information to begin making decisions but no way to judge the accuracy of that information, which often ends up being wrong. Marlows steamer is caught in the fog, meaning that he has no idea where hes going and no idea what lies ahead.

However, when the steamer returned from the river, the fog was cleared and the river was running down stream towards ¡®civilization¡¯. This represents the escape from terror, as if the river is there to expel Europeans from Africa altogether.

And the ivory that was hunted by so many men for, it symbolizes the pagan God that is so worshipped by Kurtz and other whites.

Heart of Darkness offers a powerful condemnation of the hypocritical operations of imperialism, it also presents a set of issues surrounding race that is ultimately more troubling.

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