Fate And Free Will In Conrad's Heart Of Darkness And Slaughterhouse Five

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The novels Heart of Darkness and Slaughterhouse Five may at first appear to have no similarities, but with further observation, it can be seen they share some similar aspects. Although the concept of fate and free will appear in both Heart of Darkness and Slaughterhouse Five, Conrad uses it in such a way where it is questionable that Marlow’s descent into madness in the heart of darkness could have been avoided, whereas Vonnegut claims there is no such thing as free will and Billy Pilgrim’s destiny is predetermined. Both novels present a great degree of determinism, yet how it is approached differs in each character’s experiences. In Heart of Darkness, when Marlow enters the Company’s office, he encounters two women knitting black wool. This …show more content…
Billy Pilgrim is told by the Tralfamadorians that only on Earth is there any talk of free will. They explain to him that all events are inevitable, and there is complete absence of free will. Billy Pilgrim already knows how his entire life plays out, birth to death, so he is forced to accept his fate and the fact that he has no control over it. Each character has no way to prepare for their destiny as it is already predetermined, such as Edgar Derby. Although he is the most experienced soldier, there was nothing he could do in order to avoid his tragic death. In this novel, the concepts of fate and free will are more obvious than in Heart of Darkness. It directly acknowledges these themes as they are the focal point of the entire …show more content…
In Heart of Darkness, both Marlow and Kurtz must come to terms with their own mortality. Kurtz is mad with power and unable to face his own death. He continuously views himself as superior, up until his last moments. He realizes the weight of his actions, his last words being “The horror! The horror!”. Kurtz then becomes aware of the suffering and death he inflicted on so many others, and the hypocritical life he led. On the other hand, Marlow experiences a sort of reverse transformation. In the beginning, Marlow sees life as fairly boring and black and white. Upon meeting Kurtz, he comes to see life and death as more complex. He is coming to terms with his own mortality through Kurtz, and becomes now becomes confused in a world that he previously used to feel very dull about. Kurtz alters his perception entirely, and presents a lasting effect on Marlow. He continues to maintain Kurtz’s legacy after his death, and even lies at the end of the novel. Something he once “hated, detested, and couldn’t bear” is now something he has

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