Darkness And Light In Heat Of Darkness Compare Kurtz's African Woman To "His Intended" And Show How This Contrast Highlights The Central Theme Of The Novel: Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

979 words - 4 pages

In Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, Marlow - who is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader's perception of the story - has a revelation about human nature. Initially, he associates things such as civilisation, knowledge, and good in terms of light - as it appears; and lack of civilisation, savagery, and evil in terms of darkness - an expected perception. However, as Marlow begins to have glimpses at the truth of human nature, his associations reverse. He associates darkness with the civilised brutality of imperialist Europe, and light with the savage reality of native Africa. The theme of darkness and light is developed throughout the novella, revealed by the disparity between Europe and Africa, portrayed more specifically between the two secondary symbols: the European woman - "His Intended", and the African woman - his mistress. These two women innocently serve to identify the difficulty in distinguishing between darkness and light, the appearance and reality of humanity. And as Marlow inexorably discovers in his revelations, underneath the shell of each and every human being there is a primordial "Heart of Darkness."The native African woman represents the entire Black identity and the magnificence of the wilderness, both of which were invaded by the "brutal but civilised" White Europeans. She is the passionate reality, being "savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent", almost reminding the Europeans of their prehistoric Black heritage and their own culture. I believe the act of throwing her arms to the sky could symbolise a outcry to an antique Divinity to restore the original Time when the land had not raided and there was peace and freedom. Kurtz's mistress is recognized as a product of the wilderness, "like the wilderness itself", and is described in terms of natural processes, a "fecund and mysterious life". In contrast to his mistress, Kurtz's Intended is a product of the "White Sepulchre", as C.B. Cox points out "the Intended lives in a place of death rather than of life, darkness rather than light, delusion rather than reality."It is this contrast that develops Marlow's misapprehension of darkness and light. Assembling an appearance confused with reality scenario. The savage African mistress and her world is the human reality, and that the civilised European society is but a superficial façade, an appearance, hiding the reality of the "Heart of Darkness".This juxtaposition of the Intended with Kurtz's mistress emphasises the theme of light and darkness through the behaviour of the culturally constructed Victorian woman. By appearance the Intended lives under the false light of civilisation has provided for her. When in fact she has shut herself in "tomb of darkness", where everything shows signs of the lifeless existence of her kind. She is accustomed to complying with the high standards of behavioural control as well as conforming to the puritan ideals of emotional and sexual restriction of the Victorian customs. Also the Intended wears a simple black garment and lives in a place of darkness, in "a pre-Eliot city of the Dead", in the wasteland of modern Europe. Kurtz's mistress by contrast highlights the Intended's characteristics because she is vibrant, emotive, and behaviourally and sexually unrepressed. Eventually Marlow concedes that this primal humanity represents light - not to be confused with the darkness of her skin or the perceived darkness of savagery and lack of restraint - but instead, the light represents the pure reality, the inner truth of what human beings are, even if that truth bears a "heart of darkness".There is an ironic contrast developed between the two women through Kurtz's painting that he left behind at the central station. The picture showed "a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was sombre, almost black. The movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of the torchlight on the face was sinister." This representation sums up this paradox of what light genuinely represents. The woman dressed in black portrays Europe, blindly carrying the torch, the light of civilisation, in which the torch places a sinister or ominous light on the ideals behind colonialism, into the dark background that is Africa. It is this foreboding light that ultimately forces Marlow to acknowledge the reality and darkness of the European imperialism, over the appearance of civilised society.In conclusion, Heart of Darkness is a mentally disturbing tale that delves deep into the human condition and its dark origins. Conrad develops concepts of darkness and light, and shows with linkage to the theme of appearance and reality how they can be confused. Two symbols represent these abstract ideas and concepts. These symbols are the two women associated with Kurtz: "His Intended" and the African mistress. The contrast between them differs not from the contrast between Europe and Africa. The two women portray, through the way they live, what is the appearance and reality of the human condition. All appearance does, in most cases and this one, is hide the reality. The reality is illustrated directly by the contrast between the two women. In fact, once Marlow penetrates the façade that the light of civilisation has placed over Kurtz's Intended, all he finds is darkness. It is this darkness that is both common to the Intended and the mistress, it is the darkness that unites them as human beings. It is the "Heart of Darkness."


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