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Facing the Dark Truth in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Facing the Dark Truth in Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has two major components: a candid look at the reality of imperialism, particularly in the Belgian Congo, and an exploration into the darkest depths of human existence.

One symbolically dense part of the work occurs when Marlow and company are attacked on their journey into the ‘heart of darkness’ and towards Kurtz. The attack begins suddenly and each of the members of the company are forced to deal with this life intrusion in the way they see fit. The company-men immediately shoot their pistols into the brush.

“The pilgrims had opened with their Winchesters, and were simply squirting lead into that bush. A deuce of a lot of smoke came up and drove slowly forward. I swore at it. Now I couldn’t see the ripple or the snag either.” The pilgrims shooting results in Marlow not being able to see the snag, and it doesn’t even stop the attack, though the pilgrims are positively proud of themselves. “‘Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? What do you think? Say?’ He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. And he had nearly fainted when he saw the wounded man! I could not help saying, ‘You made a glorious lot of smoke, anyhow.’ I had seen, from the way the tops of the bushes rustled and flew, that almost all the shots had gone too high. You can’t hit anything unless you take aim and fire from the shoulder; but these chaps fired from the hip with their eyes shut.”

I think this behavior of the pilgrims is representative of the imperialist movement as a whole. It was begun rashly from the hip with no real objectives, despite the claim that it was a movement civilizing the world. History and Hear…

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…g his craft through the river, on the watch for snags. There is enough surface-truth in this to occupy him fully and leave him no time to distinguish the nature of the ‘little sticks’ that are flying about. When it at length penetrates his consciousness that the sticks are arrows and that they are ‘being shot at’, he confronts the truth that is hidden in the dark depths…”(69-70).

This almost sounds like “mind your own business,” but I do not think it is quite that simple. Conrad is merely suggesting that one complete their “task at hand,” but, when one is faced with something, they must be willing to face the dark truth and show restraint, as Conrad himself did. He had been to the Congo, which is what the book is based on, and showed restraint and came back alive. Staying within the restraints of society, he faced the dark truth and wrote a book about it.

Comparing The Iliad and The Bible

Comparing The Iliad and The Bible

Throughout recorded history, man has sought explanations for the various phenomena that occur in every facet of nature, and when no obvious answer is forthcoming, still a theory is often proposed. These explanatory theories, often taking the form of stories or chronicles, are usually linked to some sort of mysticism or divine intervention. By ascribing that which he does not understand to the gods’ will at work, man avoids facing up to his own lack of knowledge in a given area, and also draws comfort from assuming that the universe does indeed function under the guidance of divine beings. Thus the explanatory accounts that man crafts enhance his own security, quelling the fear of chaos that resides in everyone, and also providing a convenient means of constructing a religion based on such stories.

Nearly every culture throughout the ages has offered a veritable cornucopia of tales detailing the reasons behind the seasons, the sunrise, and all other occurrences in the natural world. These stories often form the backbone of the religious tradition that prevails within said culture, as most or all of them feature gods and goddesses crafting the natural world and everything on it in a certain image. The Iliad is replete with religious overtones, and is also considered a definitive account of ancient Greek culture. The Bible serves much the same purpose for the Judeo-Christian tradition, serving as a literary phenomenon, and also as a historical account. Both books purport that they are true stories, and the two serve as windows onto complex and dynamic cultures. By analyzing common thematic elements of both chronicles, seeking out the differences and the similarities, and p…

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…ller, J. Hillis. “Narrative”. Critical Terms for Literary Study. Lentricchia, Frank and Thomas McLaughlin, eds. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1990.

Homer. “The Iliad”. trans. Robert Fagles. Norton Anthlogy of World Masterpieces. Vol.1, 6th Ed. W.W. Norton

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