The Symbolism of Darkness in Heart of Darkness Essay

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The Symbolism of Darkness in Heart of Darkness Darkness…What does it mean?

In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, the meaning of the word “darkness” changed throughout the story to symbolize different things. Conrad used this term in ways to identify social and intellectual elements in order to help the reader get a feel of his outlook and his own opinions of the world. The two most noticeable interpretations of “darkness” were how it symbolized racism in the world and it also symbolized the enormous impact that an uncivilized world can have on a civilized person.

Symbolism of racism was the first thing that stood out while reading this story. This idea came from the way that Joseph Conrad wrote about the whites, -
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“And while I had to lack after the savage who was a fireman…to look at him was edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind legs…he was useful and had been instructed (www.SparkNotes.com).” As a result, it seemed that no matter how educated the Natives became, they were still seen as being a lesser people to the whites.

From racism, the idea of civilization vs. uncivilized life came about. Conrad used the “light and dark” difference regarding this. The light represented civilization –the civilized or “good” side of the world. And the dark represented the uncivilized and savage or “evil” side of the world. In the United States, as a nation, people live in a civilized culture. There are “police, bakers, and firemen.” There are laws mad to protect citizens and protect this country. The laws are to be abided by or consequences will be paid. There is very little to worry about. Now, imagine a world where there are no laws – no rules to follow. Imagine a world where there are no “police, bakers, and firemen.” Chaos comes to mind. “In he unconscious mind of each of us, slumber infinite capacities for reversion and crime. And our best chance for survival, moral survival, lies in frankly recognizing these capacities (Conrad H.O.D. 9).” No matter how civilized people are, if they were to be removed from all civilization, and placed into this wilderness of the world, the evil and darkness of their hearts would show through.

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