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Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

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Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by sabine on Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:58 pm

Hi mates! I'm quiet sure that most of you have read conrad's masterpiece Heart of Darkness. I think that I'd read it more than five times. I just adore it anyway, this passage still stick in my mind. It's is awsome.

"It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over." (p.28)

Through these words, Marlow expresses the marginalization of women . he embodies the typical 19th Century’s view of women as the inferior sex Marlow thinks that women are soft, delicate and naïve. According to him, they are idealistic, believing in an utopian world that can never work if they have to run it. Women have no power and no authority in the text which reflects the inferior position of women in the European puritan society of the 19th Century. Though he scorns them for their dreaming, he also admires the purity of their hopes and dreams

In the novel Women are absent, and even when they are present, they seem to be “out of it” . They are only three minor female characters in the novel (Marlow's aunt, Kurtz's mistress and his intended), and it is precisely because of the minor role that Joseph Conrad has given to them that makes it questionable.

Women are rarely given voices of their own and are more often seen than heard in the novel. we hardly get any well drawn, fully developed, woman character in Conrad's novel. The women characters are mostly sketchy, incomplete. But an absence of a fully developed woman character in Conrad’s novel is not necessarily or convincingly a proof of his inability or failure to create such a character. I wonder if by this attitude conrad wanted to portray to us the traits of the traditional Victorian society towards women? by giving such views, did he marginalize women ? [b]did his society prevent him from creating a well-elaborated woman character ?

Don't hesitate to share your views mates Wink
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sabine

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Re: Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by aspire on Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:16 am

quite scholarly Sabine. your exposition of the problem is so fine!
Are u one of them too (i mean the feminists)?::smiles::

Whatever marlow says about women, it is a woman who gets him the job he wants (his aunt). Without her, nothing could have happened. Both him and his readers should be grateful to his talkative but kind aunt. The absence and silence of women in Heart of darkness shouldnt (in my view) be blamed or fussed over. It's only natural. the book is partly an adventure story in the very desolate and secluded heart of Congo river, where only brave rough young men can venture. We do not expect women there. The absence of "native" voices and points of view is thus to me more remarkable and conspicuous than that of round women characters. Even today, women are sweepingly outnumbered in the armies of the world, in the space missions, etc etc.
Besides, it's difficult to speak about Conrad's intentions given that he is two layers away from the events of the story. Two narrators separate us from him. he can't be held responsible for what Marlow or the frame narrator says.
Yet i have a question to the Feminists (whose discourse i can never stomach): who is closer to you, your sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, or a stranger woman? every normal (in the sense of sane) woman feels closer and more emotionally connected to their male relatives than to stranger women. their is no binding relationship between women, nor between men, and this means that men and women live together and there is nothing like a struggle between the genders except in the deranged minds of Nawal Saadaoui, helene sixous, Nina hartley , simone de beauvoir and their likes and lackeys. society is built on families (mixed entities), not on two competing struggling genders. No happiness for women if fellow men are not happy, and vice versa. Men and women are complementary and life is impossible without both of them.

May be i went too far, so apologies Sabine, and thanks again for raising the question

aspire

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Re: Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by sabine on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:24 pm

Thanks aspire for your critical mind. I do appreciate the efforts you are making and the way you interpret things. Indeed, I'd read the novel with feminist lenses ::smiles::

In fact, eventhough Marlow gets his job thanks to his aunt, he considers her naive and "stupid" to some extent. I felt that Conrad was hiding women's voice!!! women were portrayed as a minority, followers of men in a patriarchal society. They embody a means or objects of entertainment. Kurtz’s Mistress is savage, wild, and gorgeous. While the Intended is civilized and has “a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering.” When Marlow meets her, she is ironically wearing black still mourning for Kurtz’s death which occurred a year ago. Although she is civilized, she cannot free herself from her master even after his death. Here again the patriarchal dominance is shown.

Now reading the novel from a postcolonial point of view, I share with you that there is an absence of "native" voices in Heart of Darkness. The natives (Congolese ) are dehumanized, marginalized, silenced, and considered inferior. In the novel, they represent the primitive soul of Africa and its traditions. They are portrayed as savages, barbarians, and fundamentally uncivilized. They are treated cruelly, enslaved and chained like animals. They are silent. Marlow describes a dying native as follows “one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat up in the sunlight, crossing his shins in front of him, and after a time let his woolly head fall on his breastbone.” Marlow’s description is, indeed, racist and prejudiced.
Besides, though he knows that what the company is doing is “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience,” he still supports it because he thinks he is superior. What really frightens Marlow is their being humans “no, they were not inhuman...that was the worst of it-this suspicion of their being inhuman....They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity. Like yours-the thought of their remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly.” He describes them as wild in the jungle; whilst he is the holder of light and civilization representing the superior race. The Congolese are portrayed as inferior and uncivilized in need of Western civilization to enlighten them.

All the pleasure is mine to read you brother
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sabine

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Re: Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by aspire on Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:42 pm

Quite convincing argument, Sabine! Well done!
Allow me please to say one thing: The mourning of Kurtz's Intended is so much to her credit; it means she is loyal, loving, sacrificing etc, though Marlow hints at her naivety ("she knew, she was sure"). To say that she cannot free her self from "her master" even after his death, i think is a little over stretched. i believe it's a sign of genuine love and tenderness, and she is excused on the ground tat she doesn't know him for what he is(becomes) after so long in the Interior. Would a matriarchal social system entail a short mourning for dead male relatives? I doubt it.

I'm very grateful Sabine for this oppo. to speak literature

aspire

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Re: Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by sabine on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:04 pm

Let's be honest! You have to some extent convinced me on that point now Smile

so, thank you for sharing well elaborated arguments Aspire . It's a pleasure to speak literature with such great persons like you
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sabine

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Re: Women in conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by aspire on Wed Jan 02, 2013 3:37 pm

Cheers Sabine!
thx for the nice words that make me pleased (though i very well know my limitations) Smile
You are quite outstanding for your young age! keep up

aspire

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