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Heart Of Darkness

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In Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, the main character, Marlow, is aboard the ship "The Nellie" and tells his fellow passengers the story of his past voyage into the African Congo. In the Congo, Marlow was looking for Kurtz, one of his company's men. Kurtz was an ivory trader and had collected a lot of ivory for the company. Marlow had gone into the Congo for adventure but he ended up learning about the nature of man. Conrad used light/dark and white/black symbolism to contrast civilization with savagery.

One example of light and dark symbolism is the Thames and Congo rivers. Conrad described the Thames River as tranquil and full of light: "The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day...spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth...The sun set: the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore." (Page 28, Conrad) In contrast, Conrad described the Congo River as dreary and dark: "The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances." (Page 66, Conrad) The Thames River is in the middle of civilization while the Congo is in the middle of the jungle. This symbolizes light as civilization because the Thames is connected to light and civilization. It also symbolizes darkness as the jungle because the Congo is connected to darkness and the jungle.

Marlow and Kurtz both represent the light and dark, or civilization and the jungle, respectively. Marlow represents light and civilization because even though he went into the jungle in search of ivory, he did not let the jungle take over his life. Marlow wanted to go back to civilization and get away from the "darkness" of the jungle. On the other hand, Kurtz went into the jungle for the same reason as Marlow but Kurtz had allowed the ivory and "darkness" to take over his life.

One example of white and black symbolism is the white ivory sought after by the British in Africa. When people think of white they think of it symbolizing something pure and clean, and when people think of black they think of symbolizing something that is tainted and dirty. In the novel, Conrad reversed these images and made the items that were white symbolize what black symbolizes. Ivory is a white material but in the novel it did not symbolize what white normally symbolizes. Ivory symbolized gluttony, lust, and greed. The

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