Impressions on the Heart Of Darkness

An amusing side note before beginning:
I attempted to read Joseph Conrad’sĀ Heart Of DarknessĀ in high school a few years back whilst on a serious reading kick. I was totally excited, went out, bought the book, sat down in the late-spring sunshine in my favourite reclining chair…. and got 3 pages in before giving up because I litterally had no idea what I was reading.

Fast forward nearly 3 years, and while I still don’t really have a clue what Conrad’s well-spoken robots are talking about in this book, I managed to get a bit further than 3 pages in. Woohoo.

No, in all seriousness I have actually really enjoyed this book. I love the existential and almost nihilistic outlook that marlowe has on the mission and basically life in general. One passage, whilst pretty sexist and insulting, really stood out for me if we apply it to more than just women (come on Conrad, stop being so old fashioned). This passage is from the scene where Marlowe visits his aunt for the last time and she has a very ignorant and positive look on imperialism:

“It’s queer how out of touch with truth women (read: most people, not just women) are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether…” (79)

While this quote is obviously not true with regards to women, it did remind me of the old saying ‘ignorance is bliss’. One must wonder, if we still to this day commit ourselves to a certain extent of willful ignorance to what goes on around the world. Maybe not everyone, but there are still a shocking number of people who when asked their opinion on current world affairs will reply in a manner similar to that of Marlowe’s aunt.

Another point on my train of thought with this book is the significant parallel to De Beauvoir’s idea of “the other”. It really clicked with me after Rob Crawford’s lecture today that the concept of the other can be applied to more concepts than that of man & woman.

Anywho, I guess my main question is more along the lines of what aim does Marlowe’s character have by assuming this sardonic point of view on Belgium imperialism? We all know irony-fueled cynics get us nowhere (just look at how useful Hipster’s have been to improving our society), but perhaps Conrad meant to illustrate with this cynical, nihilistic way of writing his character that we, until the end of time are doomed to witness and propagate the evil of human nature, as it is ingrained within us.. I sincerely hope not, for that would be mighty depressing if true.

Finally, continuing with last post’s tradition, here’s what I have been reading to the last few days:

A nice way to lighten up after Heart Of Darkness.. haha.

1 thought on “Impressions on the Heart Of Darkness

  1. Good point about how this text can be related to de Beauvoir’s through the concept of the other. I’m not sure we planned it that way (at least, I don’t recall doing so), but it works! And certainly there are existentialist themes in this novel; the lecture did a great job of pointing out the themes of absurdity in it.

    Also, good question about why write with this cynical character as the main point of view? He doesn’t really do anything about the problems he notes; he just comments on them and talks about how things are absurd. Does that suggest that not much is to be done? I haven’t read it that way, but I can see why one might. If one just thinks of the world as absurd and meaningless, without clear values and purposes, if the world is truly as inscrutable and incomprehensible as Marlow keeps describing his experiences as being, then is there really any solid basis on which to engage in changing things for the better? I’m not sure if that’s what you meant, but it’s something that your comments made me think of.

    I think of Marlow as focusing his comments on absurdity and inscrutability on this particular experience, though, and this imperialist enterprise. That’s what’s absurd and without meaning; maybe not the rest of human life or the world. But then again, this experience is all we get from Marlow, so it’s hard to tell what he thinks of much else!

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