Tag Archives: Joseph Conrad

Overhead to in Their Head

Heart of Darkness (1899) focused on imperialism and how it affects life in Africa through the perspective of Charles Marlow. In the story, most of the conflict was reflected externally and viewed through a narrator who had strong emotions towards the events but no lacked in focus on how it affected him, psychologically. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) marks a turn as even though everything is in third-person, the narration focuses on Stephen and both his internal and external conflicts as he grows up. This conflict even spills into the third-person narratives on many occasions. The progression that I have noticed is that the focus of the narrative started with a wider picture, where the narrator is not mentally attached to the story. Joyce’s novel marks a turn where character’s thoughts affect the delivery of the narration. This turn leads to novels like As I Lay Dying (1930) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937.) Both stories matter entirely because of the narrator. Faulkner’s novel is delivered with the focus on individual characters and how their thoughts directly affect their narrative. Hurston, on the other hand, still had a third-person perspective, for the most part, but the story was still Janie’s. Every emotion that she felt, whether conflicting or not, is there to be heard. As time progresses, the stories go from character driven to being the characters.

Ideas of Acceptance

One theme that runs through some of the books we’ve read is acceptance by normalcy; who is publicly accepted and not judged for what they are.   This them is present within “Heart of Darkness”, “Melanctha”, “Mrs. Dalloway”, and “Their Eyes were Watching God”.

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.”  (Conrad 5)

“Rose Johnson was careless and was lazy, but she had been brought up by white folks and she needed decent comfort. Her white training had only made for habits, not for nature” (Stein 1)

” ‘Let us go on, Septimus,’ … People must notice; people must see.” (Woolf 15).

“‘What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?—Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?—Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her?—What dat ole forty year ole ’oman doin’ wid her hair swingin’ down her back lak some young gal?t'” (Hurston)

In Heart of Darkness and Melanctha, which were published in 1899 and 1909, people that don’t measure up to the ideas of public acceptance are people of color; Rose’s “white training” elevates her, and in Heart of Darkness, it’s made clear that conquest once required taking from those with a different complexion.  Later in 1925, Septimus Warren Smith of Mrs. Dalloway, is having shell shock while his wife worries that people are watching him, because even as a veteran, having any kind of problem in public is considered unacceptable.  By the time we reach Hurston’s work in 1937, he main character Janie is judged by the public simply because they do not know things about her.

Dark

“It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river”.

 

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. In Youth: A Narrative; and Other Tales. Rev. ed. Edited by Cedric Watts. Oxford University Press, 2002. p.130.

 

I think this shows modernity from the darkness that he seems to portray during this paragraph. It is darker and creepier which makes me feel as though it is modern.

Kicked loose from the earth

“I tried to break the spell—the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness—that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations. And don’t you see, the terror of the position was not in being knocked on the head—though I had a very lively sense of that danger too—but in this, that I had to deal with a being to whom I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low. I had, even like the niggers, to invoke him—himself—his own exalted and incredible degradation. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! He had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness” Oxford University Press, Oxford NY, 2002. pp. 173-174.

The point being made here is somewhat confusing yet interesting. Perhaps it can be seen as Marlow explains Kurtz’s state almost as though he has become free from worldly limitations; that somehow with his integration into the natives’ lives has made him become one who should be acknowledged and remembered for his “enlarged mind”.

The Devils within Everyone

“I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men- men, I tell you. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness” (Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002), 117.

This passage was very interesting because it describes the three sinful quality everyone possesses as devils. Any and all human are either guilty or capable of greed, violence, and lust. These three qualities are what drives humans to commit greater sins. This passage portrays the three qualities as powerful evils that can turn humans into devils if we let them overtake us. Also, this is a passage is one that makes readers question who is this “weak-eyed devil.” he will be acquainted with. Later on we find out that it is Kurtz that he is talking about which exemplifies delayed specification.

The Incorrect Word

“Rebels! What would be the next definition I was to her? There had been enemies, criminals, workers – and these were rebels. Those rebellious heads looked very subdued to me on their sticks.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 165. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

This is interesting because rebels are people who disobey the commands and act free; however, in the story they have little to no power to even act free or do as they please. They barely disrupt or even act on their own accord. Although, they are called  “workers and enemies,” they present no sign of being rebellious.

Descriptions of the Forest

” ‘The earth seemed unearthly.  We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there–there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.  It was unearthly, and the men were—–No, they were not inhuman.  Well you know, that was the worst of it–this suspicion of their not being human”  (Conrad 139).

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Oxford Universe Press Inc. 2008.  Print.

This particular scene within “Heart of Darkness” was interesting because it is a small description of the area and natives, which are essentially two of the biggest entities of the book.  The travelers, describe the natives the only way they can; they look like humans and act like beasts, from their perspective at least.  The jungle is described as unearthly, when it’s the most earthly thing that the humans have experienced.