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Restraint in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

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   "Restraint! I would have just as soon expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battle," comments Marlow as he questions why the hungry cannibals aboard his steamer hadn't gone for the white crew members (Conrad 43). "The glimpse of the steamboat . . . filled those savages with unrestrained grief," Marlow explains after recalling the cries of the natives seeing the steamer amidst a brief fog lift (Conrad 44). "Poor fool! He had no restraint, no restraint . . .a tree swayed by the wind," speaks Marlow of a slain helmsman amidst an attack by tribal savages (Conrad 52). "Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts," says Marlow a few moments after he tells of his first glimpse of severed human heads fixed atop posts at the Inner Station (Conrad 58).

Restraint. The word is used time and time again throughout the text. Acknowledging restraint and the lack thereof in characters as the story progresses in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is paramount to any understanding of the work. The storyteller Marlow first believes that restraint is what separates civilization from chaos and society from savagery. As his journey into the heart of darkness progresses, however, he learns that such a conclusion is rash, and that there is far more to the matter than simply that.

Literary critic Cedric Watts comments upon the ambiguity of the title of Heart of Darkness. In Watts' view, the phrase can mean both "the center of a dark" and "the heart which has the quality of being dark (54).

This question regarding the title's meaning can have an answer when one considers restraint. Restraint goes hand in hand with rationality, which is associated with the brain. Lack of restraint can, ...


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.... New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.

D'Avanzo, Mario. "Conrad's Motley as an Organizing Metaphor." Heart of Darkness. Edited by Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton & Company, Inc., 1971. 251-253.

Henrikson, Bruce. "Heart of Darkness and the Gnostic Myth." Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: Modern Critical Interpretations. Edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 45-56.

Joseph Conrad. 2012. Web 6 Nov. 2013.
http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jconrad.htm.

Ong,Walter J. "Truth in Conrad's Darkness." Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer. Edited by Harold Bloom. Broomall: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996. 59-62.

Watts, Cedric. "Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Critical and Contextual Discussion." Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer. Edited by Harold Bloom. Broomall: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996. 54-56.


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