Saturday, October 27, 2012

Literature Analysis #2: Heart of Darkness


1.      The main character of the story is Marlow and ever since he was a little boy he loved looking at maps. He wanted to travel to Africa as well as the Congo River when he grew up. Thanks to his aunt’s connections Marlow finally gets his chance when a European captain is killed by the natives in Africa. Marlow takes a ship to the Congo where his new steamship awaits him, however, he finds out that it will take a couple of months to repair. Marlow overhears a conversation about a man named Kurtz who is rumored to hold significant information about the Congo but he is very ill and needs to be attended to immediately. Marlow then travels in search of Kurtz but is ambushed by natives which leads to a couple of dead men on Marlow’s ship. When, Marlow finds Kurtz he learns that Kurtz is the thought of as a god by the natives because he has raided multiple surrounding territories in search of ivory. Eventually, Marlow and Kurtz become good friends on their voyage back to Europe, however, Kurtz dies onboard of the ship but before he does he releases important, personal documents to Marlow about the Congo.

2.      The theme of the novel lies in the very name of the novel, darkness. Marlow’s journey literally begins and ends in darkness. The setting is dark and gloomy, and there is also the imaginary and philosophical darkness that spreads throughout the novel.  Despite, darkness some men hope to conquer it, in order to receive the reward it holds, specifically ivory. Darkness is probably present in Kurtz more than anyone else because he has been living in the Congo for a long time. It has devoured him and taken away his morale and natural being through his acts of savagery against the natives.

3.      The novel has a cynical and dark tone which is implied through Marlow’s constant use of the words darkness, fear, and madness. Not one person in the novel has a positive aura surrounding them; everyone in the book is complemented through darkness. Here are three excerpts that support my claim of the author having a cynical and dark tone:

·         “The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky-seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”

·         “He seemed to stare at me out of the glassy panel-stare with that wide and immense stare embracing, condemning, and loathing the entire universe.”

·         “I seemed to hear the whispered cry, “The horror! The horror!”

4.      Personification: An example of personification is used in the following quote, “The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service crowded with memories of men and ships it had born to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea (p.66).” When the current is said to be running and containing memories of men this signifies human qualities that a current doesn’t have because it isn’t a living object.


Simile: Conrad uses similes throughout the book and here is an example of one, “Here and there a military camp lost in the wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay (p.69).” Conrad is comparing a military camp with a needle in a bundle of hay to show how hard it is for Marlow to find the camp in the fog and wilderness.


Imagery: Conrad’s imagery is breathtakingly frightening because he is a master of the darkness and he does it magnificently throughout the novel. For example, “A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar (p.73).”


Cliché: Conrad doesn’t use many clichés in the novel; however, they stuck out to me so I decided to mention them because they are some of my favorites. He uses, “The horror! The horror!” and “as far as the eye could see (p.78).”


Analogy: An analogy and a simile are essentially the same in meaning but, I mentioned both of them because Conrad uses them so well that I had to talk about both of them. For example, “The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother (p.78-79).”


Symbolism: Conrad uses symbolism numerous times to compare the natives to machines and pilgrims. For example, “They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside rotten fence (p.91).”


Diction: The author’s word choice is significant to the story because if Conrad didn’t use a wide and advanced vocabulary then it would have taken away from the stories great explanation and expression of darkness through the characters. An example is, “We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse (p.108).”


Syntax: The author’s sentence structure is prolix at times because sometimes his sentences feel like run on sentences; however, they are just really long descriptions. For example, “It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream-making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams….. (p.97)”


Mood: The author’s mood is the same as the author’s tone which is cynical and dark. The mood comes across cynical because every character in the book seems to have a dark aura surrounding them. For example, “Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol (p.66).”


Foreshadowing: The author uses foreshadowing constantly when talking about Marlow’s memories and what he wants to forget because he is narrating this story.  For example, “There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies-which is exactly what I hate and detest of the world-what I want to forget (p.97).”


1.      The first example of direct characterization is when Conrad describes Marlow at the beginning of the book. “Marlow had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol.” An example of indirect characterization is when Conrad describes the Lawyer who is thought of as reliable and wise because of his age. “The Lawyer-the best of old fellows-had, because of his many years and many virtues, they only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug.” Another example of direct characterization is when Conrad describes the Director of Companies. “He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.” Another example of indirect characterization is when Conrad describes Kurtz through Marlow’s comments. For example, “It seemed to me I had never breathed an atmosphere so vile, and I turned mentally to Kurtz for relief-positively for relief.” Conrad uses both direct characterization and indirect to give hints to the reader about the characters and their traits but, he uses his tone, syntax, and diction to assist the reader in interpreting the qualities of the main characters.

2.      The author doesn’t change his syntax and diction when he is describing a character because he uses formal diction and syntax throughout the book and not just when describing characters. In this excerpt from the novel it explains how the darkness had engulfed Kurtz because he wanted to kill all the natives, “It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: “Exterminate all the brutes!”

3.      Marlow is a static and flat character because his goal throughout the book stays the same. After, Marlow attains control of his own steamship he travels along the Congo River to meet a man named Kurtz who holds important secrets about the Congo so, Marlow travels in search for him. Marlow throughout the book tries to learn the secrets to the Congo and before, his new friend dies, Kurtz; he reveals unknown secrets about the Congo which fulfills the main character’s goal.

4.      At the end of the book I felt like I read a character because I couldn’t relate to Marlow or Kurtz. They are very relatable characters so I am sure someone could provide me with a great counter argument but I just didn’t feel like their characters popped out of the book. For example the following description was hard to relate to because I don’t think I am as hated as Kurtz, “He is a prodigy, an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else.”


  1. Great analysis Bernardo!! This was the last book I read and I enjoyed how you incorporated your own perspective on it. I also enjoyed how you practiced vocab by using words such as "prolix". Good job!

  2. While there are a few improper uses of the comma, nothing really detracts from the analysis. +1 good noodle star for you.

  3. I think you did a very good job with this one using the theme as darkness and what not. You obviously knew the book very well and had some great critical thinking.

  4. I enjoyed your description of the tone. The examples you gave really conveyed the panicky madness you described. The psychological aspect of the novel is evident in your analysis and makes for a much more interesting read.

  5. You did I good job in providing a lot of detail especially in the literary elements section and you used a lot of quotes! Overall this was a great literary analysis!