Joseph Conrad’s repeated use of darkness in his novel Heart of Darkness has been widely interpreted. Readers have arrived at many different conclusions about the use of darkness throughout the novel. The critics themselves cannot agree what the darkness means.
The critics draw different conclusions about the use of darkness. For some critics, the use of darkness is seen as an intentional literary device. For example, Gary Adelman and Michael Levenson discuss the use of darkness and comment upon Conrad’s purpose. Gary Adelman suggests that Conrad used darkness as a means to tie together various elements of the novel. Adelman says, “the most elaborate of Conrad’s devices for controlling several dimensions of his story is his metaphorical use of darkness” (85-86). Adelman talks about how “[d]arkness characterizes the hero’s psychological state at each stage of his journey” (86). In Adelman’s opinion, “it functions as a symbol of Marlow’s self-enlightenment and political awareness” (86). According to Adelman, it is important to “interpret its various meanings” (86) in order to understand the “scope of Conrad’s vision and the design of the novel” (86). He points to the fact that darkness is first associated with England and imperialism through the gloom that hangs over London and the tribute that is made to British imperialism. When Marlow starts talking about the Roman conquest of Britain, however, the darkness is associated with “savagery, disease, and solitude that threaten the colonizer” (86). As Marlow’s journey progresses, darkness is associated with “savagery, cannibalism and human sacrifice” (87). Marlow, according to Adelman, “is described as journeying … into the d…
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…a racist attitude.
A. Darkness is used to portray Africa and the native people; suggesting a racist attitude to some critics.
1. Gary Adelman defends Conrad against racist accusations, suggesting that he was not aware of the racial implications of his symbolism.
2. The portrayal of Africa as a place of darkness is understandable considering the commonly held perception of the country at the time Heart of Darkness was written.
III. The critics cannot agree why Conrad reversed what darkness was associated with.
A. Throughout the novel darkness is associated with one thing and then reversed and associated with something else.
1. Gary Adelman suggests that the purpose of reversal in association is to engage the reader.
2. Ian Watt sees the reversal of association as a technique for breaking down commonly held beliefs.
Comparing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now
Parallels Between Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a very vivid and sometimes disturbing film centered on the Vietnam War. Because it was based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, it is possible to draw some parallels between the two. Both can be interpreted as metaphors for a journey through the inner self, and each has its own singular message to convey. Apocalypse Now very perspicuously depicts the fact that men have hearts of darkness, and it explores the evils of war. At the same time, however, it seemingly glorifies some aspects. The anti-war sequences were often brutal and portrayed destruction as a result of the human condition. The film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, can be interpreted both as pro-war and anti-war in its intent, although the latter is a more valid interpretation.
Apocalypse Now, graphic and disturbing, vividly depicts the true image of war. Coppola and his cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, presented a series of visually stunning images throughout the film that made it impossible for the viewer not to contemplate the Vietnam War, its purposes, and its shortcomings. These images also lead the audience to an anti-war sentiment. One of the first images that depicts the anti-war disposition was the series of visuals presented during the film’s opening sequence, as Captain Willard, the protagonist, is shown in his hotel room in Saigon. A song titled “The End,” by The Who, is played as images of helicopters flying overhead and exploding bombs flash across the screen. Willard is first shown lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling fan, which frequently merges with the helicopter blades. Later he is shown, wea…
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Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness