Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reflections: Heart of Darkness

Adam C. Zern opines on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness:

"If you're not familiar with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, then you’re at least familiar with its influence.  Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam-war film, is widely known.  (And in a different medium, a recent video game, Spec Ops: The Line, was based on Conrad's novella).  The classic line, which I was not aware comes from Heart of Darkness, "The horror! The horror!" is often repeated but little understood in context.  Heart of Darkness earns its place in literature not because of its explicitness but because of its psychological impact.

As its title implies, Heart of Darkness is not a cheerful book.  It explores themes and ideas of barbarism, atavism, racism, colonialism, moral relativism, avarice, obsession, among others.  Obviously Conrad's novella has something to say and it's said in such a way that it sticks to you.  Ever since finishing the book, I have been pondering its implications and lessons.  For that reason alone Heart of Darkness is worth reading.  It gives one something to think about, even if that something isn't terribly pleasant. 

I found Heart of Darkness to be a somewhat odd story.  So much of the 'darkness' referenced is not actually seen by the reader.  The reader doesn't see Kurtz, the infamous and notorious symbol of fallen man, until late in the book, and at that point the transformation is complete and the man himself is merely a shade of what he once was.  The dark deeds have already been done.  The reader experiences the after-effects, the fall-out, but not the events.  Yet, somehow Conrad was able to drill into me the import of what had occurred, and I felt a conflicting sense of pity and repulsion toward Kurtz.  It's a testament of how a story can be told powerfully without being gratuitous. 

Heart of Darkness is definitely worth reading.  It's a fascinating example of how a story can act like a scalpel in opening up the human psyche and give readers a glance inside.  What we see inside can be debated, but Heart of Darkness appears to have already made a diagnosis.  For my part, I was interested in its conclusion."

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The Island of Doctor Moreau
Overrated: The Road
Pointless Stories and the Morality of Fiction

1 comment:

  1. Reading this book as a kid I remember the way it made me feel. And that taught me the power of great literature. To be able to elicit emotions and feelings is a powerful thing, a worthy goal for any writer.

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