Survey of English Literature II
dr. sc. Boris Berić
On the Significance of the Title Heart of Darkness
This essay explores the implications of the title Heart of Darkness and creates a platform which illustrates how various elements of the work are connected through it. In addition, it shows how the reoccurring motif of darkness is fused and reflected throughout the work. The main focus, however, lies on the tragic downfall of the protagonist Mr Kurtz, whose heart gets progressively consumed with lust, greed and destruction which culminates in his sanity eclipse and death. Although written accordingly to autobiographical accounts, the setting plays a dominant role for establishing a gloomy, dark mood and signifies the unconscious or the id, which is ruled by raw impulses where each individual has the capacity for darkness and evil. It is characterized by the atrocities and exploitation committed during the European colonization of Africa. “To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe.”1 The historical context of the setting foreshadows Mr Kurtz’s mental deterioration as they both become a place of darkness. At the very beginning, the title is mirrored in the hypocrisy of the sepulchral city masked by philanthropic propaganda, as vividly depicted in the naive words of a minor character which may represent the public opinion of that timeframe. “She talked about weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways...”2 The journey up the river to Kurtz’s station is the symbolic journey to the place of internal conflict where the superego constantly battles the dark impulses and desires of the shadow. "The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness."3 The outcome of that...
Bibliography: Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2006. 1891-1947. Print.
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