Heart of Darkness Commentary

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Heart of Darkness Extract This extract was taking from the novel “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Cornell. The novel is set in the 1890’s, and the extract shows a European man telling someone, or some people, about his trip to the Congo, where he went looking for his friend. The themes of man versus nature and imperialist belief, and the changes in tone as the pace of the extract quickens are evident throughout the extract through the use of various literary devices that also help to create vivid imagery for the reader. The theme of man versus nature is apparent from the beginning of the extract “when vegetation rioted” as the narrator travelled up the river. The paradoxical description of the trees shows that the narrator feels powerless surrounded by “a mob of wooded islands” and senses that he is unwelcome in the Congo. Personifying the trees and comparing them to a “mob” portrays the trees as a united force against the narrator, and how uncomfortable he feels, as mobs are usually associated to causing anarchy and chaos. The narrator also personifies the trees as “kings” to show the power they hold, as this is their land and not his, as he is unfamiliar with the forest, whereas the trees cover almost every inch of it. Additionally, the repetition of “trees, trees, millions of trees” show how outnumbered the narrator feels and also gives the reader an idea of what he could be seeing around him in the middle of the Congo. The use of asyndeton also sets the pace of the beginning of the extract, as he cruises down the river. He then goes to describe that the trees are “massive, immense”, again using the repetition of synonyms for the word “big” to evoke vivid imagery and to convey how “very small, very lost” the narrator feels as he searches for his friend in an unfamiliar place. The steamboat that the narrator travels on is also referred to as “a sluggish
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