Blida Department of English: Free Stand to Stand Free
Hello dear mate, we'll be pleased to have you joining our community, so would you please register. You have to identify yourself to admin or to the moderators to be able to join the hidden group where you can see all the forum material.

Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by haku on Tue Mar 16, 2010 7:03 pm

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND INTERPRETATIONS WITH US
avatar
haku

Number of posts : 38
Age : 29
Registration date : 2009-07-27

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by mimi cici on Thu Apr 15, 2010 4:46 pm

Hi haku,i wish that i've understood the idea u wanna reach.
Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad. Before its 1902 publication, it appeared as a three-part series (1899) in Blackwood's Magazine. It is widely regarded as a significant work of English literature,and part of the Western canon.
The story tells of when Charles Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time, Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River was a private colony of Belgium's King Leopold II. Marlow is employed to transport ivory downriver. However, his more pressing assignment is to return Kurtz, another ivory trader, to civilization, in a cover-up. Kurtz has a reputation throughout the region.
This symbolic story is a story within a story or frame narrative. It follows Marlow as he recounts from dusk through to late night, to a group of men aboard a ship anchored in the Thames Estuary
his Congolese adventure. The passage of time and the darkening sky
during the fictitious narrative-within-the-narrative parallels the
atmosphere of the story.
avatar
mimi cici

Number of posts : 399
Age : 27
Location : Algeria
Registration date : 2010-02-13

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:21 pm

Plot Summary  The story opens with five men, apparently colleagues, on a boat on the Thames. Marlow begins telling a story of a job he took as captain of a steamship in Africa. He begins by ruminating on how Britain's image among Ancient Roman officials must have been similar to Africa's image among 19th century British officials. He describes how his "dear aunt" used many of her contacts to secure the job for him. When he arrives at the job, he encounters many men he dislikes as they strike him as untrustworthy. They speak often of a man named Kurtz, who has quite a reputation in many areas of expertise. He is somewhat of a rogue ivory collector, "essentially a great musician," a journalist, a skilled painter and "a universal genius".

Marlow arrives at the Central Station run by the general manager, an unwholesome conspiratorial character. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and spends several months waiting for parts to repair it. Kurtz is rumored to be ill, making the delays in repairing the ship all the more costly. Marlow eventually gets the parts and he and the manager set out with a few agents and a crew of cannibals on a long, difficult voyage up the river. The dense jungle and the oppressive silence make everyone aboard a little jumpy, and the occasional glimpse of a native village or the sound of drums works the voyagers into a frenzy.

Marlow and his crew come across a hut with stacked firewood together with a note saying that the wood is for them but that they should approach cautiously. Shortly after the steamer has taken on the firewood it is surrounded by a dense fog. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by an unseen band of natives, who fire arrows from the safety of the forest. A Russian trader who meets them as they come ashore, assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who left the wood. Kurtz has established himself as a god with the natives and has gone on brutal raids in the surrounding territory in search of ivory.

Marlow and his crew take the ailing Kurtz aboard their ship and depart. Kurtz is lodged in Marlow's pilothouse and Marlow begins to see that Kurtz is every bit as grandiose as previously described. During this time, Kurtz gives Marlow a collection of papers and a photograph for safekeeping; both had witnessed the manager going through Kurtz's belongings. The photograph is of a beautiful woman whom Marlow assumes is Kurtz's love interest.

One night Marlow happens upon Kurtz, obviously near death. As Marlow comes closer with a candle, Kurtz seems to experience a moment of clarity and speaks his last words: "The horror! The horror!" Marlow believes this to be Kurtz's reflection on the events of his life. Marlow does not inform the manager or any of the other voyagers of Kurtz's death; the news is instead broken by the manager's child-servant.

Marlow later returns to his home city and is confronted by many people seeking things and ideas of Kurtz. Marlow eventually sees Kurtz's fiancée about a year later; she is still in mourning. She asks Marlow about Kurtz's death and Marlow informs her that his last words were her name—rather than, as really happened, "The horror! The horror!"

The story concludes as the scene returns to the trip on the Thames and mentions how it seems as though the boat is drifting into the heart of the darkness.
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:02 pm

Another summary:A group of men are aboard an English ship that is sitting on the Thames. The group includes a Lawyer, an Accountant, a Company Director/Captain, and a man without a specific profession who is named Marlow. The narrator appears to be another unnamed guest on the ship. While they are loitering about, waiting for the wind to pick up so that they might resume their voyage, Marlow begins to speak about London and Europe as some of the darkest places on earth. The narrator and other guests do not seem to regard him with much respect. Marlow is a stationary man, very unusual for a seaman. The others do not understand him because he does not fit into a neat category in the same manner that the others do. He mentions colonization and says that carving the earth into prizes or pieces is not something to examine too closely because it is an atrocity. He then begins to narrate a personal experience in Africa, which led him to become a freshwater sailor and gave him a terrible glimpse of colonization. With the exception of two or three small paragraphs, the perspective shifts to Marlow, who becomes the main narrator for the rest of the novel. 


Marlow has always had a passion for travel and exploration. Maps are an obsession of his. Marlow decides he wants nothing more than to be the skipper of a steamship that travels up and down a river in Africa. His aunt has a connection in the Administration Department of a seafaring and exploration company that gathers ivory, and she manages to get Marlow an appointment. He replaces a captain who was killed in a skirmish with the natives. When Marlow arrives at the company office, the atmosphere is extremely dim and foreboding. He feels as if everyone is looking at him pityingly. The doctor who performs his physical asks if there is a history of insanity in Marlow's family. He tells Marlow that nothing could persuade him to join the Company down in the Congo. This puzzles Marlow, but he does not think much of it. The next day he embarks on a one-month journey to the primary Company station. The African shores that he observes look anything but welcoming. They are dark and rather desolate, in spite of the flurry of human activity around them. When he arrives, Marlow learns that a company member recently committed suicide. There are multitudes of chain-gang types, who all look at him with vacant expressions. A young boy approaches Marlow, looking very empty. Marlow can do nothing but offer him some ship biscuits. He is very relieved to leave the boy behind as he comes across a very well-dressed man who is the picture of respectability and elegance. They introduce themselves: he is the Chief Accountant of the Company. Marlow befriends this man and frequently spends time in his hut while the Accountant goes over the accounts. After ten days of observing the Chief Accountant's ill temper, Marlow departs for his 200-mile journey into the interior of the Congo, where he will work for a station run by a man named Kurtz.

The journey is arduous. Marlow crosses many paths, sees deserted dwellings, and encounters black men working. Marlow never describes them as humans. Throughout the novel, the white characters refer to them in animalistic terms. Marlow finally arrives at a secondary station, where he meets the Manager, who for now will oversee his work. It is a strange meeting. The Manager smiles in a manner that is very discomfiting. The ship on which Marlow is supposed to set sail is broken. While they await the delivery of the rivets needed to fix it, Marlow spends his time on more mundane tasks. He frequently hears the name "Kurtz" around the station. Clearly everyone knows his future boss. It is rumored that he is ill. Soon the entire crew will depart for a trip to Kurtz's station.

The Manager's uncle arrives with his own expedition. Marlow overhears them saying that they would like to see Kurtz and his assistant hanged so that their station could be eliminated as ivory competition. After a day of exploring, the expedition has lost all of their animals. Marlow sets out for Kurtz's station with the Pilgrims, the cannibal crew, and the Manager. About eight miles from their destination, they stop for the night. There is talk of an approaching attack. Rumor has it that Kurtz may have been killed in a previous one. Some of the pilgrims go ashore to investigate. The whirring sound of arrows is heard; an attack is underway. The Pilgrims shoot back from the ship with rifles. The helmsman of the ship is killed, as is a native ashore. Marlow supposes that Kurtz has perished in the inexplicable attack. This upsets him greatly. Over the course of his travels, he has greatly looked forward to meeting this man. Marlow shares Kurtz's background: an English education, a woman at home waiting for him. In spite of Marlow's disappointment, the ship presses onward. A little way down the river, the crew spot Kurtz's station, which they had supposed was lost. They meet a Russian man who resembles a harlequin. He says that Kurtz is alive but somewhat ill. The natives do not want Kurtz to leave because he has expanded their minds. Kurtz does not want to leave because he has essentially become part of the tribe.

After talking for a while with the Russian, Marlow has a very clear picture of the man who has become his obsession. Finally, he has the chance to talk to Kurtz, who is ill and on his deathbed. The natives surround his hut until he tells them to leave. While on watch, Marlow dozes off and realizes that Kurtz is gone. He chases him and finds Kurtz in the forest. He does not want to leave the station because his plans have not been fully realized. Marlow manages to take him back to his bed. Kurtz entrusts Marlow with all of his old files and papers. Among these is a photograph of his sweetheart. The Russian escapes before the Manager and others can imprison him. The steamboat departs the next day. Kurtz dies onboard a few days later, Marlow having attended him until the end.

Marlow returns to England, but the memory of his friend haunts him. He manages to find the woman from the picture, and he pays her a visit. She talks at length about his wonderful personal qualities and about how guilty she feels that she was not with him at the last. Marlow lies and says that her name was the last word spoken by Kurtz—the truth would be too dark to tell her.
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:28 pm

Character List

Marlow
The protagonist and main narrator of the story, he stumbles into Africa looking to sail a steamboat and finds much more. He possesses a strong interest in the past. He also has a good work ethic; he views working hard as a means of achieving sanity. In many respects, the worldview of Marlow is that of a typical European. Still, he is intended to be a versatile character, one of the few who does not belong to a distinct class, and he thus can relate to different kinds of people with more ease than his peers.

Kurtz
He is in charge of the most productive ivory station in the Congo. Hailed universally for his genius and eloquence, Kurtz becomes the focus of Marlow's journey into Africa. He is the unique victim of colonization; the wilderness captures him and he turns his back on the people and customs that were once a part of him.

Manager
Marlow's direct supervisor, he is a hard, greedy man who values power and money above all else. Yet he masks this crudeness behind a civilized demeanor. He seems to have an ability to outlive those around him. The Manager would like nothing more than to surpass Kurtz in the ivory trade and see him dead, so that he would no longer interfere with the competitive trade. He makes people uneasy, and the only explanation Marlow offers is that he is "hollow."

Brickmaker
He is the so-called first agent, who is the Manager's pet and spy. He never actually makes bricks; supposedly he is waiting for the delivery of an essential ingredient. The Brickmaker is unlikable, cunning, and contemptible. His behavior flauts Marlow's work
ethic.

Russian
Kurtz's devoted companion, he is an idealistic explorer who has wandered to the Congo on a Dutch ship and has been caught in the web of Kurtz's obsessive ivory hunt. He is so young that it is uncertain whether or not he fully understands what he is doing in Africa. He is more or less attracted to the glamor of adventure. His unwavering support of Kurtz makes him humble and admirable.

Natives
They are a collective presence throughout the story. They are never described as individuals.

Chief Accountant
A top official in the main station, he befriends Marlow when he first arrives in Africa. He is a cruel man but ironically also the picture of the "civilized European." Marlow admires his work habits, but this admiration is directed toward his flawless appearance rather than his personality.

Marlow's aunt
She is the connection to the Company in which Marlow receives a position. She appears to be the only female contact Marlow has in his life, and she fully supports the vision of colonialism laid out in Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden."

Kurtz's fiancee
An unnamed woman who only appears in the last few pages of the novel, she is the symbol of a life that Kurtz leaves behind when he arrives in the Congo. She is pure and lives in a dream world built around who she believes Kurtz is. Her impressions of him are so disparate from what the reader observes that we marvel at the change that evidently has come about in Kurtz.

Helmsman
He is responsible for steering Marlow's ship. He is not very experienced and seems unable to make informed decisions under pressure.

Pilgrims
The collective white presence in the story, they accompany Marlow and the Manager on the voyage to Kurtz's station. They exist in opposition to the natives and the cannibals, and their fear makes it apparent that they are unwilling to relinquish preconceived notions about the natives.

Cannibals
They are a specific section of the native presence. They are the grunt crew of Marlow's ship, and they are the only group of natives who ever voice any kind of statement or opinion to the whites. Marlow is surprised at their tranquil manner, and he seems to respect them.

Director


The captain in charge aboard the Thames River ship, from which Marlow tells the tale. He is loved by all. He is a good sailor, but he now works on land.

Lawyer
A passenger aboard the Thames ship. He is called a good, virtuous fellow.

Accountant
Also a passenger aboard the Thames ship, he does nothing but play dominoes. Along with the lawyer, he constitutes a crew of gentility, which contrasts with the crew from Marlow's Congo ship.

Narrator
An unnamed passenger aboard the Thames ship, he provides a structure for Marlow's story and is a stand-in for audience perspective and participation. He was once a sailor, and he seems affected by Kurtz's tale due to his somewhat romantic nature.
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:38 pm

 One of the two main characters,Kurtz is a character in Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. He is an ivory trader, sent by a shadowy Belgian company into the heart of the Congo. With the help of his superior technology, Kurtz has turned himself into a demigod of all the tribes surrounding his station, and gathered vast quantities of ivory in this way. As a result, his name is known throughout the region. The general manager of the company's Congo operation is jealous of Kurtz, and plots his downfall.

As the reader finds out at the end, Kurtz is a multitalented man - painter, writer, promising politician (ironically enough, a populist). He starts out, years before the novella begins, as an imperialist in the best tradition of the white man's burden. The reader is introduced to a painting of Kurtz's, depicting a blindfolded woman bearing a torch against a nearly black background, and clearly symbolic of his former views. Kurtz is also the author of a "pamphlet" regarding the civilization of the natives. However, over the course of his stay in Africa, he becomes corrupted. He takes his pamphlet and scribbles in, at the very end, the words "Exterminate the brutes!" He induces the natives to worship him, setting up rituals and venerations worthy of a tyrant. By the time Marlow, the narrator, sees Kurtz, he is ill with "jungle fever" and almost dead. Marlow seizes Kurtz and endeavors to take him back down the river in his steamboat, whereupon Kurtz dies. He passes his sickness to Marlow, who almost follows him into the grave.

The characterization of Kurtz is highly symbolic, and symbolism is essential to understanding this complex character. Darkness is archetypally symbolic of the primeval, uncivilized, violent force of the human psyche. In Kurtz's painting, it represents the impulses that benevolent imperialism seeks to tame. Kurtz's repeated association with this darkness reveals that it has reversed his plans and taken over him. When Marlow says that the wilderness runs in Kurtz's veins, that is what he means. Kurtz is also repeatedly associated with shadow, revealing that he represents Marlow's archetypal shadow. There are many descriptions of Kurtz's half-dead state; he can hardly walk, and is "no heavier than a child" in spite of his great stature. Marlow himself acknowledges that he and those around him consistently think of Kurtz predominantly in terms of voice.
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:03 pm

I found it importantHeart of Darkness is also a multi-layered postcolonial parable. And it is also a story in which racism presents itself so blatantly that, for many, the dilemma of race must be tackled before anything else in the book may be dealt with. Conrad's liberal use of derogatory, outdated and offensive terminology, and the flagrant devaluation of people of color as savages, niggers and cannibals -- this use of language by Conrad darkens and disturbs many a contemporary mind.


Heart of Darkness is full of irony and deception.

The Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe views Conrad as a racist:


Certainly Conrad had a problem with niggers. His inordinate love of that word itself should be of interest to psychonalysts. Sometimes his fixation on blackness is equally interesting, as when he gives us this brief description: “A black arms”—as though we might expect a black figure striding along on black legs to wave white arms! But so relenting is Conrad’s obsession. (Achebe, P. 13)


However Conrad, uses light to indicate deceit in Heart of Darkness. For example, when something glitters, it does not glitter because it is beautiful or good, but because there is something hidden under the surface, and sometimes something dangerous. The river glitters, eyes glitter. The haze is translucent, still, eerie, as though the sky was covered with white gauze. It is as though the light does not illuminate the darkness, but rather that, in a sense, the light is the darkness. If the light is the darkness, then perhaps Achebe is wrong. Conrad maybe using the words nigger and the use of darkness and light to contradict the Africans with the Europeans. It would then be the light Europeans who represent darkness, evil.


Heart of Darkness is a scathing criticism of colonialism at a time when there were mere hints that colonialism was not working as it should. It was a time that appeared on the surface perhaps to be the height of Empire, a time to be bullish about colonialism in Africa. Imperialism is a central, underlying theme in this book, although it is not only about imperialism.


Heart of Darkness is set in the Congo. It is a story that we infer takes place in the Congo, narrated by Marlow from a barge on the Thames. The reality of Heart of Darkness is that the entire time, we never leave the Thames. During the time when Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness , and even before that, during the imaginary time when Marlow went to the Congo, the British colonial empire was at its height. Britain was the preeminent world power during the second half of the nineteenth century. She had colonies around the world, including India, Malaya, Hong Kong, and much of Africa. Britain controlled the Suez Canal, the East Coast of Africa, and the route to the source of the Nile.

The images from the Thames in Heart of Darkness lend support to the argument that this is, at a basic level, a novel about imperialism. At the beginning of the novel, Conrad connects the Thames to the Congo. The Thames is "a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth." It is connected to the Congo like "an interminable waterway." It is connected both symbolically and actually. It is connected physically as all rivers are connected to each other. It is also connected by shared humanity, and it is connected economically. One piece of the economic connection is the ivory coming out of the Congo, on its way to Europe. This economic connection is alluded to by the presence of London in the distance -- the "monstrous town" -- and by the gloom we now see as we sit on the Thames with Marlow -- a lightness growing gradually darker, a sense of foreboding that intensifies. However, Achebe views the contrast of the Thames and the Congo as more of Conrad’s blatant racism: Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the anitthesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality. The book opens on the Thames, tranquil, resting peacefully “at the decline of day after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks.” But the actual story will take place on the River Congo, the very antithesis of the Thames. The River Congo is quite decidedly not a River Emeritus. It has rendered no service and enjoys no old-age pension. We are told that “going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginning of the world.” (Acgebe, P. 4)

The fact that the imagery is borrowed from Africa that bothers Achebe. He argues that Heart of Darkness treats Africa: "as setting and backdrop which eliminates the African as human factor. Africa as metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril. Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind" (Achebe, P. 12)?


Achebe is saying that he is offended by the use of images of Africa in the novel. However, Conrad seems to be attempting to ridicule his own society, not mock African society. Achebe is reading too much into the novella. He is forgetting it was written at a time when the word nigger was commonly used, an not considered racist. Achebe is reading Conrad from a modern point-of-view. We must view literature within the context of the time it was written. Conrad was opposed to colonialism, Achebe himself notes of Conrad: It might be contended, of course, that the attitude to the African in Heart of Darkness is not Conrad’s but that of his fictional narrator, Marlow, and that far from endorsing it Conrad might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism. Certainly, Conrad appears to go to considerable pains to set up layers of insulation between himself and the moral universe of his story. He has, for example, a narrator behind a narrator. (p. 10)

Achebe, however, continues to judge Marlow by modern standards. He acknowledges that both Marlow and Conrad are liberals of the “English liberal tradition which required all Englishmen of decency to be deeply shocked by atrocities in Bulgaria or the Congo of King Leopold of the Belgians or whatever” (P. 10). Achebe acknowledges that students of Heart of Darkness note Conrad is concerned not so much with Africa as with the deterioration of one Europens mind caused by solitude and sickness. They will point out to you that Conrad is, if anything, less charitable to the Europeans in the story than he is to the natives, that the point of the story is to ridicule Europe’s civilizing mission in Africa. (Achebe, P. 12)
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by chinda on Mon May 31, 2010 1:54 am

Aspects of Modernism in Heart of Darkness:
 .1- It's openness to interpretation: Marlow's journey to central Africa to confront the power-mad Kurtz can be interpreted as a political statement about imperialism and race, a critic of bureaucracy, a journey of the self, a descent into Hell.
2- Forcing the reader to share the impression of the characters. The reader is left to devise his or her own interpretation and meaning.
3- The sense of alienation, fragmentation and lack of resolution that the characters feel is provoked in readers as well.
4- Foreshadowing: Talking in the present about something that will happen in the future.
5- Pessimistic end: The end usually is death either morally or physically; the physical death of Kurtz and moral death of Marlow.
avatar
chinda

Number of posts : 397
Age : 117
Location : Starland
Registration date : 2009-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by Thewolf on Sat Jun 12, 2010 2:27 pm

Thank you mates, this will help me in future carry on
avatar
Thewolf

Number of posts : 1050
Age : 417
Location : Desert
Registration date : 2010-01-12

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by Thewolf on Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:26 pm

Kurts is the salt of this novel...but i didn't like him!
avatar
Thewolf

Number of posts : 1050
Age : 417
Location : Desert
Registration date : 2010-01-12

Back to top Go down

Re: Reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum