The Heart of Darkness setting (1899) is a setting in Joseph Conrad’s novel which was published by Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist. Joseph Conrad is a Polish-English novelist. Charles Marlow, a sailor who works for a Belgian trading firm as a ferry boat captain in the African interior, is the protagonist of this story.
The Congo River serves as the backdrop for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness setting, published in 1899. Belgium’s King Leopold II owned a private colony near the country’s capital city, the Congo Free State. Kurtz is an ivory merchant who works at a trading post far up the River and has “gone.
The bulk of the drama takes place in Africa, but Marlow’s journey begins and ends on the River Thames, just outside London. Marlow’s story begins with his meeting his employer, Kurtz.
The Heart of Darkness setting is set just after the century in the Belgian-controlled Congo Free State- Belgian Congo). At that period, Europe controlled vast domains worldwide, which meant that regions like the Congo were subjected to unspeakable brutality in the service of extracting and exporting huge amounts of natural resources. Traders forced Congolese into slavery.
Marlow’s trip into the Congolese hinterland exposes the atrocities and avarice of his countryman Company representatives, as well as Belgium’s Marlow works for. Despite Europe’s ascendancy, many Europeans were ignorant about the colonies and what occurred there. Marlow implies just that early in the novella:
“I used to have a desire for maps as a youngster… There were many blank spaces on the earth at that time, and when I saw one that looked particularly attractive on a map (but they all appear to), I would put my finger on it and promise: When I become an adult, I’ll visit there.”
Marlow’s descriptions of the “blank spaces” on the map, which he creates with his mother, evoke images of a youngster’s delight at learning about unexplored territory. To those at home in Europe, the colonies appeared to be places of obscurity and darkness, as evidenced by Marlow’s enthusiasm for exploration.
Most of the drama takes place in Africa, although the book begins and ends on the River Thames near London. In the novel’s second sentence, Marlow says that a dark, foreboding cloud hovers over London:
“The air was dark and dismal, seeming to condense into a sad sadness that brooded motionless over the largest and greatest city on earth.”
There is irony in the insistence on London’s greatness, coupled with the “mournful gloom” that has gathered over it. The narrator’s irony becomes more apparent as the novella comes to a close with this statement:
“The offing was blocked by a black bank of clouds, and the serene waterway leading to the farthest boundaries of the earth flowed somber beneath an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of a huge darkness.”
Africa may not be the true heart of darkness, according to Joseph Conrad, after all, by closing and opening the novella in this manner. Perhaps London—and, by extension, all of Europe’s great cities—is where darkness begins.
Assessment of the Importance of the Heart of Darkness Setting
The meeting of Marlow and Kurtz at the inner station, which was perhaps the fascinating element of Heart of Darkness’s backdrop, is certainly one worth reading about. The true heart of darkness lies in this region.
This heart of darkness setting also echoes the cries of the Russian sailor who takes Marlow to the Central Station.
The story of the young man makes Marlow understand Kurtz’s brilliance and ambition. He becomes more excited to meet Kurtz after learning of this man’s “intense” craving for ivory. The setting provides a surface for Heart of Darkness’s action, breaking Kurtz down into an easily-digestible character.
Though the setting starts as an adventure, one can also see the Heart of Darkness novel as a more literary work. The Heart of Darkness setting provides the perfect backdrop for Conrad’s criticism of white imperialism over Africa. The port at London where Marlow first meets Kurtz is similarly filled with darkness, just like the Congo River that flows into it.
The earliest beginnings of the Heart of Darkness take us from a bright, refreshing atmosphere to a dark, depressing one. Heart of Darkness is a story with Western imperialism as its backdrop, and thus Western imperialism’s evils are exposed through the setting. Heart of Darkness also has an aspect of mystery because readers can never tell what will happen next in this jungle setting.
The setting presents and changes the deck of the steamboat. The steamboat anchored in the Thames is described as “glistening black, with a curved stem, a vast iron… machinery glowing and glittering like jasper and sardonyx”. Then Marlow gets on board to find that it has become “a wilderness of wood,” which adds to the story’s theme of darkness.
The importance of the Heart of Darkness setting is to capture the thoughts and attention of the reader. Kurtz was like Marlow- an innocent and unspoiled being from the Imperialist world of the west who wanted to help African people but darkness sets in. Marlow remarks on how he has found himself in the dark heart of darkness.
The Heart of Darkness setting provides an understanding of Kurtz’s character through Marlow’s initial meeting with him at the Inner Station. Heart of Darkness is set on the Congo River, revealing how Western imperialistic powers challenged African society.
Last but not least, the Heart of Darkness setting of the novel has displayed darkness at its heart. Kurtz’s horror contributed to Heart of Darkness story was the result of darkness. Marlow makes a display of civilization on the edge while Kurtz displays civilization decaying at the center.
How is the River Thames Described in the heart of Darkness Setting?
In the Heart of Darkness setting, the River Thames is described as “glistening black.” Marlow has to take a boat to get on board the steamboat. The vessel’s description was “glistening black, with a curved stem, a cast iron.
The River Thames is described as filled with “somber forest.” It then changed into a boat that was “glistening black, with a curved stem, a vast iron…machinery glowing and glittering like jasper and sardonyx.”
The story’s perspective changes from Marlow at the Central Station to Marlow on his journey to meet Kurtz, who had set up an outer station near the Inner Station to do business there. This change in perspective occurs as Marlow rides down to the River, which separates as it flows out of Europe (the Imperialist West) and into Africa (the colonized…).
Heart of Darkness is set on the Congo River that flows into London’s port which seems to be just as dark as Marlow describes it as being where he first met Kurtz–at the station at London’s Central Station.
What is the Main Theme of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?
The book’s key themes are darkness, estrangement and loneliness, and pandemonium and order.
Darkness: This is the central theme in Conrad’s work. In his analysis of the United States, Marlow detects “darkness” in the methods of imperialism. Despite this, the book conveys a racist notion that the uncivilized territory and people led to Europeans’ immorality.
Alienation and Loneliness: Colonel Kurtz’s isolation contributes to his madness in a remote location. Marlow’s experiences in Africa drove him to view other males as strangers.
Pandemonium and Order: In the opening pages, we are introduced to a post-Civil War America where white people and black people live in separate cities. Although he is a foreigner and an outsider, Marlow can see both sides of society. He witnessed the tumultuous ivory trade and African culture when Africa was exploited for its riches.
What is the Symbolic Significance of the Rivers Thames and Congo in the heart of Darkness Setting?
Consider where Marlow tells us a short story about this event on another river (the English Thames), which transforms the Congo into a tranquil waterway leading to a parallel. So, if the Congo is likened to the Thames, then England is comparable to Africa, which implies that white men are similar to black men in that they were once like black men but have evolved.
The lights from the city were reflecting off the River due to London’s reputation as a shining city, which Conrad regarded as a symbol of civilization. The light is an indication of Conrad’s worldview. According to him, civilization is defined by the evil that goes unnoticed. Exploring knowledge is represented by the light. To symbolize the maliciousness lurking in the city and the world, Conrad uses darkness to tell this story. Since we can’t see what’s in front of us, we cannot distinguish between good and bad.
The descriptions of darkness in this text are frightening and intriguing, as it is a land where people eat people and savages lurk in the trees and the shadows. In this novella, Africa is represented as “the darkness heart,” which refers to the place where men’s inner evil is revealed through their thoughts and deeds.
The novella emphasizes the contrast between the Thames River and the Congo River by drawing attention to them. The River is characterized as peaceful and serene. It is seen as a city of light that isn’t perplexing. The Congo River, on the other hand, is described as a twisting snake because of its gloomy appearance, making it evil.
The differences between these two waterways demonstrate the distinction between disciplined and unrefined individuals. The smooth River is a symbol of a society that has been controlled by law and order, as it is easy to navigate.
What is Up With the Joseph Conrad Ending on Immense Darkness?
The book’s final chapter, “The Heart of Darkness,” features two versions of the conclusion: Marlow’s narrative and the frame narrative. Marlow lets off while describing why he lied to Kurtz’s Intended: It would have been too dark—too dark altogether in the middle. The frame narrative comes to a similar.
The two endings are comparable in that they allude to “night.” The first refers to Kurtz’s disgraceful death, and the second concerns London’s dark cloud. These references to darkness imply a metamorphosis symbolized by blackness.
Rather than suggest that the novella has set the Congo to visit up as a descent into depravity, it turns out that Europe’s heart of darkness may have been lurking in London—as well as other European imperialist hubs—all along. Such a metamorphic reversal reflects that what Marlow discovers at the bottom of the Congo is not an isolated event but the truth about Europe’s soul.
Thus Joseph Conrad’s ending with immense darkness is significant because it reveals the symbolic darkness of Europe and Africa, even though the European’s had more technological advances than Africans.
In the uttermost ends, vegetation rioted, and big trees presented the primeval forest. The vegetation is lush and dense, representing the density of Africa’s jungle. The novella provides a striking contrast between light and darkness, so it can be assumed that light symbolizes good while darkness symbolizes evil.
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