Heart of Darkness is a story that centers on a key character; Charles Marlow. He is a sailor who travels to Congo to meet the highly regarded Kurtz. Kurtz is reputable in his administrative abilities (Conrad 161). He travels as the captain of a riverboat which is used by Belgian firm to trade in Congo. As Marlow journeys to Congo he encounters extensive levels of brutality in the firm’s stations. Most of the native inhabitants in Congo, who are forced to work for the company suffer from ill treatment and work overload from the firm’s agents (Conrad 176). The story gives an account of the psychological aspects in the crew’s minds when traveling through the pre-historic world.
How the Darkness of the Landscape Can Lead to the Darkness of Social Corruption
There are critics of this story who believe that Joseph Conrad, who is the author, writes the story as an illustration of how “the darkness of the landscape can lead to the darkness of social corruption”. This statement is significant, since the landscape that depicted in the story gives the overall tone. Throughout the story, the use of words such as shadows, black, dreary and dark is highly emphasized to show what the crew and Marlow view in the new environment. The adjectives that the author uses to instill pictures in the minds of readers mostly suggest of untamed wildness and dark mysteries surrounding the firm. The author shows these images to give a sense of Africa, as an unknown and wild place. Conrad is attempting to draw the readers’ attention to the apprehension and mystery that is evidently depicted in the characters. Without this deep and dark depiction of the environment, the narration would not function fully.
Effect of the Environment on Actions, Morals and Feelings of Characters
As the readers identify more with the sense of environment that surrounds Marlow, they are most likely to sympathize with the character’s sense of solitude and mystery. The forest illustrated in the story offers the readers nothing more than the threat of encountering with total darkness and hostile natives who are represented as savages. The river is also dark, holding no positive feelings for the crew (Conrad 163). Moreover, Marlow is on a boat with the least comfortable group of people who are cannibals and pilgrims (Conrad 93). This environment just promotes his levels of loneliness; he begins to reflect on effects of the surrounding environment on man and the human conditions. Of course, such a thought only comes to his mind through the influence of an unsympathetic European mindset when it came to understanding cultural diversities. The scenery depicted in the story is mostly a stereotyped view of what the African jungles held at the time; dark and an assured death for any man who was imprudent enough to make entry in the forest.
Some of the statements given in this book are not believable. I have not had the chance to experience this change of the environment, but it is clear that the book only serves as functionality for readers to understand European mindset at the time. Africa is a continent like any other, with people and not angels, monsters, savages or demons. The statements depicted in the story are not likely to gather the sympathy of readers on African oppression.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Plain Label Books, 1975. p. 176-90. Print.