Point of View and Theme in Heart of Darkness Essay example

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Point of View and Theme in Heart of Darkness

  In Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness the story of Marlow, an Englishman travelling physically up an unnamed river in Africa and psychologically into the human possibility, is related to the reader through several narrational voices. The primary first-person narrator is an Englishman aboard the yawl, the 'Nellie', who relates the story as it is told to him by Marlow. Within Marlow's narrative are several instances when Marlow relies upon others, such as the Russian, the brickmaker and the Manager at the central station, for information. Therefore, through complicated narrational structure resulting from the polyphonous account, Conrad can already represent to the reader the theme of the shifting nature of reality. As each narrator relates what is important to them, the audience must realise that each voice edits, absents information and is affected by their own experiences and the culture and ideology within which they judge and respond. Therefore the text reveals itself as non-essentialist. It is also seen through the narratorial voices, who are all significantly European males, although challenging the received view of imperial praxis as glorious and daring, a racist and patriarchal text, which eventually, through Marlow's own assimilation of the ideology of his time, reinscribes and replicates that which it attempts to criticise:  European action in Africa.



Marlow quickly interrogates colonialism through his statement:


"The conquest of the world 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."


So that t...

... middle of paper ...

...hrough the confident and mediating narrative account the reader receives through Marlow and the unnamed First narration Conrad is able to interrogate the theme of the corruption and economic motivations behind colonids praxis in the novel Heart of Darkness. It is, however, unconsciously, also made clear that this text, its narrator and its author are products of their time and ideology, as it consistantly represents characters and situations in racist and patriarchal terms, so that the reader is also aware of the Eurocentric and ethnocentric themes running through the novella.




Conrad, J.  Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Group.  1995


Cole, David W., and Kenneth B. Grant. "Conrad's Heart of Darkness." The Explicator 54.1 1995.


Jean-Aubry, George. Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters. Vol. 1. New York: Page, 1966.


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