The True Identity In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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Photographs and memories harness the unique ability to capture moments in time. Like memories, photographs tell stories that would be otherwise lost, but unlike memories, they preserve unbiased recollections. The details remain sharp and clear even when the memories change, and those details reveal truth about their subject. In Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Kathy H. searches photographs for a glimpse of her true identity. Natasha Trethewey explores her complex circumstances through photographs in her poetry compilation, Native Guard. Mr. Kurtz paints an idealized identity for himself in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In novels and poetry, characters reveal their identities in photographs and portraits.
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Kurtz paints himself an identity in Lady Justice. The misguided European wants to see his traipse through Africa as one with great moral purpose. He finds his identity in Lady Justice; he paints a picture of her “blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch” (Conrad 29). The backdrop is dark. Kurtz sees himself as the lady, the moral figure bringing light into the heart of darkness. Kurtz fails to see the atrocities he commits, but despite his lack of sight, he leads others along the path of his misguided morality. Kurtz is Oedipus, blind and confident. His true identity, vested in the crimes he has committed against humanity, is unbeknownst to him (Foster). Just as Oedipus blinds himself at the discovery of his identity, Kurtz’s immoral acts flash through his mind as he lies dying, shrouded by darkness despite the light “within a foot from his eyes” (Conrad 90). For Oedipus and Kurtz, it takes the loss of physical sight-- where pretty fronts distract from inner evil-- to truly see what lay underneath their insidious dealings. The epiphany, brought to light by blindness, sickens him; he is not blind justice but instead a blind fool, and his African exploits set the continent on fire rather than bring light to it. Kurtz paints his identity using all the right symbols but with a misconstrued

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