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Symbols and Symbolism Essay: Color as a Tool in Heart of Darkness

Color as a Tool of Symbolism in Heart of Darkness

Color is used very effectively as a tool of symbolism in Heart of Darkness. Colors, especially black and white, are used to symbolize evil (black) and good (white). Other colors are also used, although less often than black and white. Throughout the story, people are thought to have white souls or black souls depending on their innate “goodness” or “badness” or the role they are fulfilling at the time. The color of a person’s soul is often contrasted to the color of their skin. A black- souled, white-skinned person is thought to be evil and dishonest. “I met a white man in such an unexpected elegance of getup…” (Conrad p.21). This demonstrates how a white man was not expected to be a good person. Elegance of dress was unexpected because the man was white. In comparison, a white-souled, black-skinned person is thought to be truthful and full of integrity. “An athletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poor predecessor….thought all the world of himself.” (Conrad p.45). People are described as black with hatred regardless of skin color. This is further evidence of black being used synonymously with evil. Black isn’t just used to describe evil people. “Often far away, I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall…” (Conrad p. 14.) The symbolism of black wool at the door of Darkness is clearly pointing to evil, and further supports black as evil. Heath 2 Colors other than black and white are used to describe moods and attitudes past the basic good and evil. Red signifies industry. “There was a vast amount of red – good to see at any time because one knows that some real work is done in there.” (Conrad p.13). Yellow is seen as a cowardly color. “I was going into the yellow. Dead in the center.” (Conrad p.13). Pale denotes Death. It is also used this way in the Bible, “the Pale horse and his rider Death”, Revelations 6:8. “She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning. It was more than a year since his death…” (Conrad p. 72-73). The use of color is effective in the story for a variety of reasons. First, it is easy to understand.

Dark Prejudice in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Prejudice in Heart of Darkness

Slavery has been with us since the Egyptian times and with it prejudice

towards certain humans have also come about. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

these prejudice feelings are reflected throughout the story by the characters

and their descriptions. The main character, Marlow shows much prejudice

feelings towards the native black slaves by much of his descriptions and

actions towards them.

One of the most noticeable prejudice descriptions that Marlow gives to us

is in the way in which Marlow describes the Themes River in two different

positions. He first describes the river as being a place where many people

seek to follow their dreams. In a way, his descriptions are like a great

fantasy with great feelings of serenity and full of liveliness. This

description of the river also contained many words of color; this Marlow

rarely uses to describe events. The description of the river going upstream

was extremely different from the former description. Marlow described it as

this “The air was warm, thick, heavy, and sluggish. There was no joy and

brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted,

into the gloom of overshadowed distances” (Conrad 2:16). Upriver was where

all the natives lived and this is how it is described, quite the opposite of

what he had thought before. Marlow feels extremely uncomfortable going to

this area, he even says that it seems as if the large trees hanging over the

river swallow the boat up as they move up. These words give the impression

that this area is very uncivilized and even animal like. Marlow constantly

feels that something is watching him and he called this watching monkey

tricks (Conrad 2:2). Obviously referring to the natives watching him.

Yet another description that Marlow gives to us that is somewhat

different is in the reactions of Kurtz’s girlfriends to his departure and

death. We first meet Kurtz’s native girlfriend. Her descriptions were much

of her savage appearances. Marlow refers too much of her jewelry as

barbarous ornaments and gifts of witch-men. This he does not know but only

assumes so. When he describes her facial expressions, they aren’t very human

like but more like an animal.

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