Heart of Darkness Essay

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‘…life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be’. In their novels Heart of Darkness and Waiting for the Barbarians how do Joseph Conrad and J.M Coetzee use the themes of Colonialism and Journeys to comment on this riddle about human nature? In these two novels, we are presented with a narrative where the main character takes us on a journey and is forced to confront and subsequently deal with various situations which are not straightforwardly interpreted. Through the central characters’ eyes, the reader witnesses how colonialism impacts on both the ruled and rulers and we accompany each of them on a journey which is both literal and allegorical. On their travels we are introduced to various characters and situations which show different ways that people are living their lives ... some by choice, some struggling, some at the mercy of others' decisions, others not questioning and just going along with what they are dealt: all different solutions to the riddle. By being presented with two similar situations where colonization is taking place, both novellas use symbolism in allegory and imagery to comment on the more complex understandings of what is going on. By examining each novella’s use of symbolism such as in representative figures and personification, motifs of light and dark, and the 'journeys' undertaken, the more complex meanings can be unraveled. Journeys, in both a literal and abstract way, are a significant theme in each novella. In the case of Waiting for the Barbarians the journey is one explored through the relationship between the Magistrate and the Barbarian woman as it leads to the Magistrate’s painful realization of self-awareness ‘she must have felt a miasma of deceit closing about her: envy, pity, cruelty all masquerading as desire’. In Heart of Darkness, there is a literal journey of Marlow’s voyage to Africa and his boat trip

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