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Marlow’s Catharsis in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Marlow’s Catharsis in Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, relies on the historical period of imperialism in order to describe its protagonist, Charlie Marlow, and his struggle. Marlow’s catharsis in the novel, as he goes to the Congo, rests on how he visualizes the effects of imperialism. This paper will analyze Marlow’s “change,” as caused by his exposure to the imperialistic nature of the historical period in which he lived. Marlow is asked by “the company”, the organization for whom he works, to travel to the Congo river and report back to them about Mr. Kurtz, a top notch officer of theirs. When he sets sail, he doesn’t know what to expect. When his journey is completed, this little “trip” will have changed Marlow forever!

Heart of Darkness is a story of one man’s journey through the African Congo and the “enlightenment” of his soul. It begins with Charlie Marlow, along with a few of his comrades, cruising aboard the Nellie, a traditional sailboat. On the boat, Marlow begins to tell of his experiences in the Congo. Conrad uses Marlow to reveal all the personal thoughts and emotions that he wants to portray while Marlow goes on this “voyage of a lifetime”. Marlow begins his voyage as an ordinary English sailor who is traveling to the African Congo on a “business trip”. He is an Englishmen through and through. He’s never been exposed to any alternative form of culture, similar to the one he will encounter in Africa, and he has no idea about the drastically different culture that exists out there.

Throughout the book, Conrad, via Marlow’s observations, reveals to the reader the naive mentality shared by every European. Marlow as well, shares this naiveté in the beginning of his voyage. However, after his first few moments in the Congo, he realizes the ignorance he and all his comrades possess. We first recognize the general naiveté of the Europeans when Marlow’s aunt is seeing him for the last time before he embarks on his journey. Marlow’s aunt is under the assumption that the voyage is a mission to “wean those ignorant millions from their horrid ways”(18-19). In reality, however, the Europeans are there in the name of imperialism and their sole objective is to earn a substantial profit by collecting all the ivory in Africa.

Another manifestation of the Europeans obliviousness towards reality is seen when Marlow is recounting his adventure aboard the Nellie.

The Requiem Scene in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

The Requiem Scene in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

The death of Willy Loman was remembered by few. He was mourned not because of his tragic death but because of his despairing life. The Requiem scene in Death of a Salesman describes the ill-attended funeral of Willy, the tragic hero who struggled to fulfill his vision of the American Dream. This scene brings closure to the play because the audience realizes that only in death is Willy able to accept the failure and false success that has plagued him and his family for years. Resolution is brought to conflicts between Willy and his own disillusionment, Willy and his hopes for his boys, and Willy and the betrayal of his wife, Linda.

Willy rejected a life of opportunity and became a salesman because of the promise outlined by the American Dream. However, because of his inability to grasp reality, his life results in a succession of lies that unwind themselves into devastating consequences. Willy does not understand that life requires more than good looks and a likeable personality in order to be successful and it is this illusion that causes the lack of substance in his being. In the Requiem Biff states, “… the man didn’t know who he was.” (138) Here, Biff recognizes that Willy…

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…tly admits his failure in the chase for the American dream and confesses to the lies that have shaped his tragic life. The scene also brings closure to disagreements between Willy and his children as Biff and Happy are finally allowed to decide their own destiny. Lastly, Linda is free from the weight of constantly trying to comfort Willy and though she is deeply sorry for Willy’s death, she is able to live in peace. In some cases, such as Willy’s, resolve can only occur in death.

Work Cited

Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman” in Literature, Reading, Reacting, Writing, Compact Fourth Edition. Harcourt, Inc. 2000.

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