Symbols and Symbolism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Use of Symbolism in Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad played a major role in the development of the twentieth-century novel. Many devices that Conrad applied for the first time to his novels gained wide usage in the literary period he helped to create. Perhaps the most effective of his pioneering techniques was his application of symbolism in his novels. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s symbolism plays a dominant role in the advancement of themes in the novel. These themes are revealed not through plot, but instead through the symbolic characters and elements present in the narrative. Joseph Conrad’s use of symbolism in his portrayal of the Africans, the Company, and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness illustrates the value of had work and self-restraint.
The format of Heart of Darkness is a narrative of the ship captain Charlie Marlow’s experiences in the Congo Free State, told to companions on a ship moored at the mouth of the Thames River, southeast of London. As the vast majority of the text is the story told by Marlow, the reader is intimately acquainted with Marlow‚s opinions and judgments throughout his first-person account. Thus the relationships between Marlow and other characters in the novel are of greater importance than the characters themselves. The actions that Marlow takes notice of are used chiefly to serve a symbolic purpose rather than to advance the plot. The flow of the novel itself is rough and illogical at times, as Marlow’s chain of thought is not entirely chronological. This is one stylistic technique that other authors of the twentieth century, particularly James Joyce and William Faulkner, would make greater use of in their literature (Jericho 23).
The first of the ma…
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…ction is not as important as the effects of that action, a world that would be exploited in the years to come.
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