Heart of Darkness: Representation of Civilization

Topics: British Empire, Colonialism, Imperialism Pages: 3 (900 words) Published: July 22, 2013
Heart of Darkness is a highly complex novella, as it does not provide the reader with an ending that satisfies his or her expectations, though the implications are profoundly more powerful and unsettling as it destabilises the reader’s notion of humanity. Conrad deconstructs the notion of western civilization being “a shining light and because of it knowledge has reached every quarter of the globe,” through the symbolic meaning of light and darkness and the breakdown of form in the narrative to echo theme. Notions of imperialism and colonialism are put into disrepute by Conrad through Marlow’s own justification and his struggles with the frame narrator, as he seeks to destabilize dominant ideology through ambiguity in his narrative, which results in an incoherent idea, destabilizing the written word, whilst having an unsettling effect on the reader. It is exposed, Marlow’s feelings of power is derived from the weakness of others, representing civilizations primal disposition to silence minority groups, questioning this notion that western civilisation is spiritually pure. The novel draws its power from the multiple readings it can provide depending on personal point of views. Readers of post-colonial, post WWII, Marxist, feminist or environmental backgrounds can all provide varying readings of this text on its overarching representation of civilisation. In the opening scenes of Heart of Darkness, Conrad invites the reader to make the connection between Stanley and the Frame Narrator as they share similar attitudes on European Imperialism. This was that Western Civilisation had the moral and spiritual responsibility to enlighten those they believed to be less civilised; of bringing light into the darkness. The Frame narrator opens the novella whilst on a ship on the Thames in London. The ship proceeds seamlessly, riding along a calm wind, “without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest.” It seems almost as though it is one with nature, part of the sea itself....
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