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womenhod Women in Darkness in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Women in Heart of Darkness

Women seem to be categorized into a separate group, serving as supplements to men’s actions, characters and behavior. All of them seem to live in the realm of their own, built on the idealistic conception of the surrounding world, governed by fair rules and laws.

The two women Marlow encounters in the Company’s office knit black wool – they represent the Fates who guard the “door of Darkness” (Hell and Destruction) and to the “house in a city of dead”. The black colour may be associated with the Natives on whose destruction and exploitation the Company was based. Black is also equivalent to the Darkness into which Marlow descends (sin and death). The wool may signify the thread of life. Their appearance is foreshadowed by the two black hens which ‘decided’ about Fresleven’s doom.

Marlow’s aunt is depicted with an underlying irony (“a dear enthusiastic soul”) which points to an illusive existence of a white woman in her civilised imagined world. She was “ready to do anything” for Marlow in the name of a “noble cause”, that is, colonising the Blacks and implementing civilisation in the Darkness of Congo. She firmly believes her nephew to be the “emissary of light”, overlooking the dark level of exploiting the Natives for financial benefits (ivory).

The painting of a woman who is “blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch” which Marlow admires signifies initial intentions of Kurtz and his beliefs before he was swallowed by the tempting Darkness. He was to have been an emissary of light but remained blindfolded and did not see the consequences leading him to his self-destruction. The painting indicates the original, good nature of Kurtz, lost in the dark of the Congo.

The native woman represents the whole Black community and the beauty of the wilderness, both of which were invaded by the ‘civilised’ whites. She is the passionate reality, being “savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent”, reminding the whites of the Black heritage and their own culture (jewellery). The gesture of throwing her arms into the sky may symbolise a dumb outcry to God to restore the original Time when the land was not raided and there was peace and freedom (“wild sorrow…dumb pain”). The lack of words which remain unsaid, only reiterates her appearance and the message sent by her behaviour.

Kurtz’s fiancee becomes contrasted with the native woman – the Intended, as signified by the name, will remain the Intended, living with an idealistic image of her husband-to-be whom she unquestionably believed to be of impeccable character and behaviour.

Epic of Beowulf Essay – Noble and Cowardly Behavior

Beowulf may serve well as a reflection of the life of Germanic aristocracy of old times. The primary epic, by definition dealing with heroic deeds and extraordinary figures, often uses comparison and contrast to differentiate good qualities and faults and make them more explicit.

Throughout the poem we acknowledge the idealisation of Beowulf both as a warrior and a king. The main features which contribute to Beowulf’s greatness are courage, martial skills, honour, responsibility, generosity and pursuit of fame.

The mentioning of Scyld, the legendary Danish hero, and of Beowulf the Dane at the beginning of the poem serve as an implicit comparison with the forthcoming Beowulf the Geat. Similarities between the warrior and the heroic predecessors expose Beowulf’s qualities.

Beowulf shows respect for king Hrothgar and he discloses his responsibility when asking the king to take care of his men in case of his death in the fight with Grendel. Unlike Unferth the “peace spoiler”, he hadn’t slain his kinsmen, nor had he boasted about his courage while the plain facts proved the opposite: for if Unferth was so brave, Grendel would not have been alive anymore. The negative image of a retainer which Unferth represents is boosted by the fact that he gave his sword to Beowulf, whereas a virtuous warrior never parts with his sword.

An example of an ignoble behaviour is also represented in the shape of the cowardly warriors of king Beowulf’s retinue, who, except for Wiglaf, leave him unattended in the fight with the Dragon. They are a total opposition of the brave hero.

As a king, Beowulf resembles wise Hrothgar and Hygelac. Generous to his thanes, he drives his land to prosperity. For his people he sacrifices his life, unlike Heremot, the avaricious former Danish king, who brought “carnage and death” to his kindred, “slew his comrades” and fled, and whose reign brought torment to his people. Beowulf shared the fate of heroic Sigemund the dragon-slayer, who gained treasure for his subordinates but whose life had a bitter end.

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