The Heart of Darkness
Throughout the novel, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, the contrasting of light and dark images permeated the text. The use of this imagery creates an underlying theme revolving around the conflict between savagery and culture, knowledge and ignorance. Conrad depicts the events, locations, and ideas that Marlow encounters in terms of darkness. The archetypal roles of this color in the novel often become a paradox when the recognized symbol for the color black is reversed during several key points in the book.
All through the novel Heart of Darkness, the color black can be found symbolizing a traditional set of themes: death, evil, ignorance, and uncivilized savagery. The first palpable use of this symbol can be found in the title, Heart of Darkness. The "Heart of Darkness" refers not only to a physical location (inside Africa), but also to a state of mind and the grim consequences of imperialism. The text considers the deep jungle of Africa as the heart of darkness both for its untamed and mysterious wilderness and for its supposed savages – the black native Africans – who reside there, practicing certain non-European customs such as cannibalism. According to the novel, the darkness of Africa hinders men’s senses and renders them metaphorically blind to their situation and surroundings, revealing a sense of ignorance in the natives. The “heart of darkness” also suggests a bewildered and unenlightened state of mind, a state of profound madness where one cannot do good but one can only choose the lesser of a series of evils. The title of the novel alone demonstrates all of the presented themes of the color black.
Marlow begins the narrative by pronouncing London as dark as the interior of Africa. "And this also’, said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth." (3) This suggests the Europeans are just as corrupt, if not more corrupt, than the Africans they reign over. "They were men enough to face the darkness." (4)...