AP Lit. and Comp.
10 March 2017
· Joseph Conrad
· The novel takes place on the Congo River in the 1890s, while it opens on the Thames River.
· The initial publication of the novel was February 1899.
· Micro and Macro Themes: unquestioned ignorance, lust for power, loss of identity, corruptness of imperialism
The Persistence of the Lust for Power:
· The most definitive picture of a downfall as a result of the desire for power, is when Marlow first sees and describes Kurtz. Previously hearing of his vigor for power and immense knowledge/wisdom, Marlow does not expect the feeble man who emerged, bedridden and ill, to be the “great” Kurtz he has heard about. Marlow comments that when Kurtz spoke, he opened his mouth as if to swallow the whole world—this statement establishes the fact that even though he is ill and in need of assistance in all arenas—to maintain his failing body, Kurtz cannot give up the need/desire for power. While this picture is specific to one man, Kurtz, the vie for power he represents, exemplifies the main theme of the novel which is Europe’s uncontrolled exploitation of the lesser areas of the world.
· Another example of this lust for power, takes place in front of Kurtz’s dwelling. In this place, Marlow discovers severed head on posts, facing towards Kurtz’s door. The fact that Kurtz has these heads in general, shows his desire to entirely subdue something he deems lesser or as “rebels”. Furthermore, the fact that the heads are facing towards his door, portrays his desire to remember his effects of his power, and to remind those whom see the heads, that he is all-powerful. This depicts pure exploitation—Kurtz could have merely killed those who line the front of his house, but rather he chose to kill them, in a merciless fashion, and then display them. This parallels Europe’s exploitation of the Congo and other colonies/lesser countries. Rather than use a sustainable portion of their resources, Europe acquired as much as possible, destroying the natural resources, and dominating the natives for their benefit.
The Loss of Identity when Confronted with Pure...