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Symbolism in Heart of Darkness

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Importance in Heart of Darkness

In his novel “Heart of Darkness,” Joseph Conrad uses the nature of the Congo river as a symbol to express the chaos and condition in the heart of both the conquerors and the conquered. By using symbolism, Conrad deeply explores the overall theme of the dehumanizing and useless elements of imperialism. Conrad personifies the river to symbolically reflect the feelings of individuals being dominated. He states the river has a “cruel element,” but the author does not imply that the river itself desires revenge, however that the Africans want to retaliate versus the ruthlessness caused by the conquerors. In context, the africans have a “vengeful aspect,” considering that they view the invasion as a devastating alteration against their lives due to the mistreatment they get, therefore dissenting against the authority of the Europeans. Conrad writes about how the river came to have a “extensive darkness” within its heart, indicating that all the hatred, disgust, vanity, and poisonous feelings in the heart of the Europeans and the Africans figuratively collected in the river. In result, the author uses personification when Marlow understands that the river not just appeared “dark” however also “helpless,” confronting the truth that the obscurity and pure cruelty of individuals involved in imperialism accumulated in their when innocent hearts, making their hearts as “sunken stones” so deeply inside the darkness that it is difficult to repair the damage if imperialism pervades.
From another point of view, the river signifies the loss of morality as a consequence of imperialism’s dehumanization. In a later time, the speaker is shocked by observing that the river and its surroundings are “so mean,” suggesting that the Europeans have a relentless heart, given that they frequently see Africans “dying gradually” as they make the Africans deal with deplorable and inhumane conditions. Due to imperialism, the Europeans maltreat the Africans by taking away their most fundamental rights, like the river, so “ruthless” to the dominated, treating them as less than human, tearing themselves apart from their human civilization, and leaving primarily hatred and violent impulses. Likewise, the river is referred to as “impenetrable” to highlight that the Europeans and the Africans have lost empathy, joy and essential human aspects, thus being left with a heart in which no grace or true delight can permeate.
In the big photo, as the Congo river symbolizes the mayhem in the human heart, the river also represents the failure of imperialism and its meaningless efforts. The river is referred to as a place where people are “lost” to signify the futile efforts to get resources in Africa. An important human side disappeared as the Europeans injured the Africans for meaningless reasons, for that reason connecting themselves in a futile effort to satisfy their desire for ivory. The Europeans “lost” their original intent to be successful since they never ever reached true joy by acquiring ivory, making themselves and the Africans uncivilized to the point that imperialism ended up being not just unjust but also meaningless. The Europeans ended up being inhumane since they lost human compassion by ending up being adjusted to ruthlessness, for that reason becoming uncivilized themselves. In addition, the Europeans make the Africans deal with “useless job(s),” demonstrating that the look for ivory is meaningless and both civilizations are victims of imperialism, since for the sake of material satisfaction imperialism sinks inside the heart and leaves it “empty” of common sense. By using the river as a sign, Conrad reveals the general theme about the harmful results of imperialism on people’s character. This helps us see that psychologically dehumanizing individuals damages both the oppressor and the oppressed, therefore planting unnecessary discomfort in their hearts.

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