Imagery, Symbolism and Motif in 'Heart of Darkness' Essay

1052 Words Nov 9th, 2011 5 Pages
In this extract taken from the Novella, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad explores many elements. Conrad uses a framing narrative; Marlow’s narrative is framed by another narrative, in which the reader listens to Marlow’s story told through one of those listening. The narrator remains unnamed as do the other listeners. The narration is told in the first-person plural, letting the reader know what each of the four listeners are thinking and feeling. It could be interpreted that the anonymity of the narrator represents the conventional perspective of an outsider, someone not involved.
One of the key aspects in the Novella is the way in which Conrad explores the depths of imagery, motif and symbolism. Arguably the biggest motif explored in
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Conrad uses lots of ‘light’ imagery, “it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds”, and this implies that such voyages served a glorious, higher purpose. He explores the idea that Europe ‘enlightened’ the rest of civilization from their apparent ‘darkness’.
Conrad fills the whole novella with symbolic aspects of light and darkness, which plays the central role in Heart of Darkness. Both Africa and England share connotations of darkness, “a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina – “. Through the use of such words like “lead” and “smoke”, Conrad emphasises a true darkness to the setting. Darkness stands for the purity and innocence of the natives, whereas light symbolises the corruption, greed and exploitation of the white men.
The contrast between light and dark parallels the idea of civilized and uncivilized. The light represents the civilization of the white men and the dark representing the uncivilized, almost savage lives of the natives. It makes the reader question which civilization really possesses the darkness. Marlow wants to give “light” to all the Africans living in ignorance, educate them and gain control over them.
Marlow suggests that the uncivilized savages degrade Europeans by placing them in the Congo and removing them from their “civilized”

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