The Real Heart Of Darkness Heart of Darkness is not only the title of Joseph Conrad's novella, it is also a main theme. This is portrayed through different images of darkness, black and evil throughout his story. The setting is often used with images of darkness; even as Marlow tells his tale, it is night. This 'darkness' is inside many concepts of the novella such as Africa, women, black people, maps, the ivory trade corporation and Kurtz.
Through these images on his journey, Marlow has a realization about the inner darkness of man, and thus brings out the theme, and title, Heart Of Darkness. At the time, the Europeans often referred to Africa as the 'Dark Continent'. This is the main setting of Marlow's story and his destination is the Congo, which is the heart of Africa. An image of darkness is used to portray this whole setting. As Marlow begins to narrate, one of the first descriptions of Africa that he gives is of the dark shores. This gives the passengers of the Nellie, as well as the reader, their initial image of the Dark Continent.
Before Marlow leaves for Africa, he goes for an interview at the company's office. There he comes across two women knitting with black wool. In Greek mythology, the allusion of the fates were in charge of a person's life, and they would spin a string Cowan 2 symbolic of this. These women themselves represent the allusion of the fates, and the black wool they use foreshadows the dark fate and horror that Marlow will soon encounter. On his journey, Marlow has a realization about the inner darkness and evil in mans heart. The journey he takes down the river into Africa is symbolic of a journey into ones soul, to the center of darkness in mans heart.
The darkness of the soul becomes more and more apparent to Marlow as the crew goes deeper into Africa. This is because they start to feel more isolated and Marlow has the opportunity to see a clear vision of himself. As Marlow begins to realize the darkness within man's soul, he feels that women are too weak to face this world he sees. "They - the women, I mean - are out of it - should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse". (p. 376) Marlow feels that the women should not be allowed to see the darkness, as they are too weak and fragile to face the truth, and he believes they should continue to live in their own world.
Marlow even lies to Kurtz's Intended, telling her the last thing Kurtz said was her name, because the real truth was to dark to tell. However, women are not the only people in this novella used to symbolize darkness; black people are also exercised as an image of darkness. Conrad uses the darkness of their skin in comparison to the white people's skin. Darkness is used to represent barbarism, savages and evil while white represents all that is good. This black and white comparison also becomes apparent when the white string on a black person is pointed out in detail, "He had tied a bit of white worsted round his neck - Why? Where did he get it?
Was it a badge - an ornament - a charm - a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all Cowan 3 connected with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas". It is as though Marlow is almost stunned by the sight of these two colours together.
The black people are never actually described as humans, nor given any real personalities unless they have traits similar to white people. They are all described as "dark things", "mostly black and naked, moving about like ants" (p. 349). The only thing that is really said about them is the darkness of their skin. They are referred to as shadows, as though they are not real individuals, just creatures with no identity.
It is like they are not important enough to give names to, and their darkness is a symbol for the unknown. Maps also reflect darkness and the unknown. The places of darkness on the maps have been coloured in to show that they have been settled. Ever since he was a child, Marlow has had an infatuation with maps and he would lose himself in the blank spaces, which slowly turned into dark spaces as they became colonized. The ivory trade in the Congo is the initial reason Marlow ventures into Africa. He soon realizes that it is based on evil, and the destruction and manipulation of the natives.
This, in turn, helps him to see how deep into this darkness Kurtz really is. It is in Kurtz that Marlow really sees the darkness. Much of Marlow's focus is to meet Kurtz, for he has heard great things about him through his cousin and his Intended. Marlow anticipates learning many important lessons from him, and that he does. Only he learns about the darkness in the world, in man's heart, and especially in Kurtz.
Kurtz sees this himself and tries to warn Marlow of this evil before he dies. Possibly the most important quote in Cowan 4 Heart Of Darkness is Kurtz' last words, "The horror! The horror!" (p. 394). Here he is referring to the darkness he has come to see, throughout his experiences, in the heart of man. Marlow tells the passengers of the Nellie of his journey into darkness, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
The many images of darkness that Conrad uses in the setting, situation and characters come together to form his main theme, and title of his novella: Heart Of Darkness. He is referring to darkness that lies deep in the soul. Marlow ventures into one heart of darkness, Africa, only to discover another - the one inside everyman's heart.