Light and Dark in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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Light and Dark in Heart of Darkness

In fictional literature, books are often given creative and catchy titles in lieu of non-ambiguous ones. If one were to take the phrase "heart of darkness" literally, one might find oneself poring over medical journals in a fruitless search to determine what disease causes the heart to take on a grayish or dark hue. One would be completely mistaken, wouldn't one? As it is, Joseph Conrad's phrase "heart of darkness" is a concept representing the contrast of darkness and light in the characters, the mood, the conflicts, and the theme.

The first example of the contrasting light and darkness in the novella is to be found in the main characters. Marlow is a philosophical English
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Still, even though Marlow peers into the dark soul of Kurtz and learns of the many atrocities that he has joyfully committed, Marlow's own "instinct to personal loyalty never wavers, in spite of the soul-shaking moral illuminations. He is driven early to a commitment to Kurtz, moving steadily through progressive experiences of horror," and maintains his lightness through his terrifying nighttime rescue of Kurtz from his own irresistible demons (Bennett 75). Therefore, this contrast is illustrated as Marlow's "dark enlightenment" of Kurtz saves him from his own destruction (Bennett 83) and allows him the privilege of purging this darkness from "the innermost recesses of his own psyche" without losing his own soul and mind (Billy 72).

The contrast between darkness and light is also portrayed in the actual development of their characters. In fact, Kurtz fascinates Marlow before they even meet. This mystique drives Marlow to enter the mission, as well as to remain with it until the end. Indeed, upon meeting, Marlow and Kurtz are very similar, as each is a descendent of European society with high morals and ideals. However, as the men move deeper into the heart of darkness, their morals erode. Marlow's are destroyed as he moves to each station and the stops further remove him from his moral foundation. Author Albert Guerard calls this "the token removal of civilized

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