Sometime in 2015, I began my first blog, focussed on book reviews. However, as this blog (A Writer’s Beginning) has become my primary blog, I have decided to transfer my earlier posts onto here and close this other blog. Thank you for reading!
“The Heart of Darkness” is a heart-wrenching tale of the injustice within our own society. It features an old sailor, Marlow, as he recounts his experiences in the then mysterious continent of Africa. This was the time when discovery and adventure was strife; Marlow felt an almost indescribable urge to explore the Congo River and master its secrets.
I have deep respect for Conrad, as he writes about a very difficult issue: how xenophobia and racism were taken as fact in the late 19th Century. He exposes how African slavery was corrupted and cruel, using Marlow’s subjective narration to show how society viewed the abuse and steady torture of these natives as acceptable, but then Marlow begins to doubt his own views, along with his entire society’s. This reveals a very real problem, juxtaposing Marlow’s doubts with Kurtz’s monstrous display of the murder and beheading of innocent men, who were persecuted purely for their appearance. This accentuates a very real issue that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) already noted, as this discusses the horrific power within a superficial society; how it can corrupt and brutalise humanity.
Now, as reading material, this is a very powerful book, however it cannot be thought of lightly. Conrad implies and suggests at most of the main themes, meaning that readers must take time in analysing and reflecting whilst reading. I feel as though it’s really important to envision Conrad’s creations, visualising the indefatigable heat and pain that the African slaves were put through, which makes this text still more heart-wrenching.
Another point that Conrad raises is made by how Marlow returns to England and deceives Kurtz’s fiancee, telling her that his last words before he died, were that of her name. In reality, Kurtz was deranged, crawling, at one point, barefooted amongst the slaves. Personally, this strikes me as a reference to the contrast between different societies, and the ignorance between them. This is an issue that we still experience today, because cultural differences are vast, and even through globalisation, our world is disconnected and mysterious, even to the most widely-traveled. The media is our only source of information, and it is often biased, or incorrect. I therefore feel as though the immortalisation of the deception within society is a relevant, powerful issue throughout the ages.
In summary, I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a very academic read; a thought provoking, emotional journey through the embedded narrative of Marlow. It’s also a very useful novel to analyse, as it draws on so many current and past issues. It highlights the corruption strewn throughout our history, questioning how human passivity can result in ongoing conflict for many years, regardless of individual opinions. On a different note, this book is not light reading, and it takes commitment to fully understand. The other fact is that this is not a happy story. It’s based on fact, and African slavery, resulting in a weapon against humanity, that caused me, personally, to question my role in the world, and consider what we accept in society now, but in a few years time, could be thought of as perfectly monstrous.