In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Marlow comes to the Congo for experience and self in the ancient belief that a man is shaped by what he does, that character is formed by what happens to one. But surrounding all of man’s efforts in the Congo is a presence: Kurtz listened to it and went mad, and Marlow recognizes it but refuses to listen, neutralizes the appeal of the unknown and survives Kurtz, who succumbed to the fascinating wilderness.
In 1899, eleven years earlier than “The Secret Sharer,” Conrad published Heart of Darkness, the tale that “delineates the archetypal pattern he continued to refine through his career” (Andreach,1970:44). In this obscure story, he wants to communicate his great conviction that, even if man fails in his attempts at authenticity, the very struggle to attain it gives intensity to an otherwise plain and inauthentic existence.
Heart of Darkness can be seen as a journey–Marlow’s mythical journey in search of the self, in order to bring back a new truth, and, through all the pages of the novel, the main character relates his experiences journeying up the Congo River in quest of another white man, Kurtz. This enigmatic man was received by the black natives as if he were a god, but perhaps because he has gone into the jungle without knowing himself, and unprepared for the ordeal, his wrong conduct took him beyond the limits of his heart, paying the price in madness and death. On the contrary, Marlow did not transgress his limits and came back without fully understanding his experience, and although the heart of darkness tried to exercise its influence on him, too, he was able to restrain himself–he recognized its fascination and its …
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…g: Joseph Conrad and the Literature of Personality. New York
Comparing Boys and Girls by Alice Munro and A Clean Well-Lighted Place by Hemingway
Importance of Foils in Boys and Girls and A Clean Well-Lighted Place
A Handbook to Literature says that the word “foil” literally means a “leaf” or a sheet “of bright metal placed under a piece of jewelry to increase its brilliance” (“Foil”). Thus when applied to literature, the term refers to “a character who makes a contrast with another, especially a minor character who helps set off a major character” (Barnett et al. 1331). For example, a foolish character may place a wise character’s wisdom in a stronger light, or a cowardly character may make the hero’s actions appear even more courageous. A foil is frequently an antagonist or confidant, but whoever the foil might be, the purpose is to illuminate one or more significant traits, attitudes or actions of a main character (“Foil” NTCE).
In the story, ‘”A Clean Well-Lighted Place,” by Ernest Hemingway, the younger waiter is a foil for both the older waiter and the old man who comes to drink in the café. The older waiter is concerned for the old man who has tried to kill himself. He understands that there are many lonely people who need a safe, well-lighted place to escape loneliness at night.
The older waiter makes the comment near the end of the story that “each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be someone who needs the café” (1172). The older waiter is sympathetic to the old man because he himself is lonely. He confesses that ” I am of those who like to stay late at the café, with all those who need a light for the night” (1172).
On the other hand, the younger waiter has a wife to go home to and is irritated at the old man because he will not leave. He even says to the old man, who is deaf, “You should have killed yourself last week” (1170). This cruel remark contrasts sharply with the older waiter’s characteristics of compassion, friendliness, and tolerance.
In the story, ” Boys and Girls,” by Alice Munro, Laird is the foil for his sister, the narrator of the story. When the children are young, Laird’s behavior contrasts with the maturity and responsibility shown by the girl. While she is busy watering the foxes, he goes off and swings “himself sick . . . going around in circles” or tries to catch caterpillars (987).