HEART OF DARKNESS.
Joseph Conrad was born on December 3rd 1857 in Berdgczew, (Polonia). He was called Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzenciowski from his childhood he was going to share the problems generated from his parentsí political thoughts. Finally, at the age of four Conrad and his parents lefts the country. Consequently, they had a very hard life, full of misery, this fact produced the death of his mother, and four years later his father died, too. Conrad kept on his mind all these horrible events during all his life. From that moment Conrad was living with his uncle, Tadeusz Babrowki. He kept the strong ideas and feelings of his father, and this fact marked Conradís life.
Although in those years, Conrad was Known as a poet, translator, dramatist. He wasnít a writer, indeed, He didnít have a convinced treatment with the Catholicism but he didnít refuse living under the Catholiscism´s uses and customs. It was his uncle the person who taught him the love for his country and the love for writing. His uncle didnít live to see the success of his nephew, he died in 1894, that year Conrad launched his first novel Almayerís Folly. He was a very intelligent boy but at the same time his behaviour wasnít right. He was very fond of adventure books and travel books. He liked to investigate the maps, although most of them werenít finished.
In "Heart of Darkness" there is a small
paragraph where we can appreciate his love for travelling.
Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps I would look for
hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all
the glories of explorations. At that time, there were many blank spaces
on the earth, and when I Sam one that looked particularly inviting on a
map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say: when
I grow up I will go there. (pg. 67)."
In 1874 he left Polonia and he went to Marsella where he began his life as a sailor. He loved the sea . This event took place at the age of 16, this could seen very strange because he was quite young but he wished to have adventures, and take some risk. He was travelling for four years, this made him grow up in everything. His different love affairs made him try suicide in 1877, but , fortunately he didnít get his purpose.
Knowing that he wasnít rich and he didnít know the English language, we have to recognise that his career was brilliant. In 1886 he got the English nationality and at the same time the Master Mariners Certificate.
Those years were very important not only on his personnel life but also on his writing. From his exotic travels around Australia, India ... he got the material which was going to configurate his life as a writer.
His hard experiences a in the sea influenced on his novels, the different harbours which were known by Conrad, would be part of his novels, as the sunrises, the hard thunderstorms. Itís also important and significant of his experiences the sense of loneliness which is produced by the sea. All these would be fonts of inspiration for his work.
In 1890, he travelled to Africa. That trip affected him deeply on his health as well as his mental health "Heart of Darkness" represents in some way, the report of that hard experience. The sense of losing the corruption of the power, the bad feeling as a part of our lives, and mainly the death are some aspects about which Conrad was limiting his ideological thought. That trip and all he learnt there would be the base to create one of the most beautiful text of the universal literature.
At the end he spend 20 year in the sea, visiting exotic far places this let him create part of his work. At the age of 36 he began his brilliant life as a writer.
The Mirror of the Sea (1906), in this moment he had left the sea in order to begin his life as a writer and mainly because he felt that the sailor life was changing.
Conrad had a superficial incapacity of transmitting some of his feelings though his way of writing, and this fact it would be one of hi style features.
In "Heart of Darknees" and "Nostromo" the
author introduced the loneliness. Before becoming a famous author he met
Jessie George a young lady of 18 and they will get married time later.
The marriage gave him some emotional balance. Conrad transmitted to his
wife his love for sailing and they made same trips. They were a family
but Conrad felt old, an old man. His health got worse, he lost the interest
in writing, and he became down. Although, it seemed to recover from that
sadness when his first grandson was born. In 1924 he was an ill man. Conrad
had written 35 years ago about his own death through one of his character
have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine.
It take places in an impalpable greyness.... with nothing around, without
spectators--- without glory.... pg. 145.
On the novels of our author we can find a lot of descriptive elements and exotic places. We know that the word "Art" includes all the different ways through which the authors transmitted their feelings.
One of the artistic expressions which is related with literature is the painting world. In this art we can find that descriptive world used by Conrad. One of the painters, who is very related to Conrad, is Gauguin. Gauguin shared his love for the sea, his love for adventures and his obsession for the New World.
Gauguin,( Eugene Henri ) Paul 7 June 1848, 8 May 1903. One of the leading French painters of the Postimpressionist period, whose development of a conceptual method of representation was a decisive step for 20 th century art. After spending a short period with Vincent Van Gogh in Arles (1888), Gauguin increasingly abandoned imitate art for expressiveness through colour. From 1891 he lived and worked in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific.
At the age of 17 he went to sea and for six years sailed about the world in freighteis or men of war. In 1871 he joined the stockbroking firm of Bertin in Paris and in 1873 married a young Danish woman, Mette Sophie Gad.
Gauguin soon started going to a studio to draw from a model and receive artistic instruction. In 1876 his "Landscape at Viroflay" was accepted for the official annual exhibition, the salon.
He developed a taste for Impressionist group of paintings by Manet, Cezanne.
In 1883, when the Paris stock exchange crashed and he lost his job, he decided" to paint every day.
He became an outcast from the society to which he had belonged and could never established himself in any other, and he came to despise Europe and civilisation.
In 1886 the expressive possibilities of colours were revealed to him in the pictures of Georges Senat and Paul Signac. Gauguin them had two decisive experiences: a meeting with Van Gogh in Paris (1886) and a journey to Martinique (1887). The one brought him into contact with a passionate personality who had similar pictorial ideas and tried to involve him in working them out communally. The other enabled Gauguin to discover for himself the brilliant colouring and sensuous delights of a tropical landscape and to experience the charm of a primitive community living the "natural" life Gauguin decided to seek through painting on emotional release, in consequence of which the reacted against impressionism.
Primitive art proceeds from the spirit and makes use of nature the so called refined art proceeds from sensuality and serves nature. Nature is the servant of the former and the mistress of the latter. She demeans manís spirit by allowing him to adore her that is the way by which we have tumbled into the abominable error of naturalism.
Gauguin became increasingly ill and was continually in pain. Yet despite melancholy, his last pictures still have serenity and hope.
As we can see both lives are related, between them, although they didnít know.
We appreciate a wide range of coincidences in their lives which joined them to their art.
In order to talk about Conrad, firstly we need know his literary work, which was successful and wide.
Conrad began his literary work with a short story titled "The black Mate" published in 1925 joined to another short story, the book was titled "Tales of Hearsay". It was created to participate on a literary contest, before starting "Almayerís Folly" (1895).
This one represented the real beginning of his career as an author. The Conradís initiation is slow, donít forget that this work began in 1889.
Almayerís Folly is inspired on his experiences as a sailor along the Asia, Conrad himself summed up the story like a psychological study about the sensible European soul which survives to the Arabís hostility. Borneo and its citizens, who are nearly wild, represent the best stage so as Conrad told his feeling about that world which was unknown for the rest of the world. Besides, the typical story about sea, exotic places, Thunderstorms, dramatic wreck, and go on, the novel calls our attention for its strong descriptions. We recognise on it romantic aspects as well as the quarrel between the wild world and the civilised world.
After the success of "Almayerís Folly" Conrad knew that he had to be a writer and he had to develop his writing. The first criticism agreed on his communicative powder and his strong description. Meanwhile he published short stories joined in a book titled "Tules of Kurest" 1898. The criticisms were positive but at the same time there were a lot of people who considered it as a dark novel full of pessimism. We have to refer to "An Out post of Progress" on which there were some aspects that people can see in "Heart of darkness". Meanwhile Conrad wrote "The Nigger of the Narcissus" which was divided into chapters and it was published in delivers, time later the same book was published as a book.
This book represented the tribute to sailors which whom he lived and worked for many years. It is about the bravery moral code, the danger, the death of the sailors.
Lord Jim (1900) was thought as a short story but later it became a complex investigation about the guilty feeling and moral doubts.
Conrad collaborated with Ford Mador and they wrote " The Inheritors" (1901) and "Romance" (1903), they were not very Known plays.
Conrad wrote more short plays, Youth (1902) in which is included Heart of Darkness and the End of the teacher and Typhoon and other stories (1903). At the some time he was working on "Nostromo" and "The Mirror of the Sea". Nostromo was a novel with clear politics thoughts, where the material was stronger than the human being.
In Heart of Darkness he a went on the same ideological thoughts as "Nostromo" the white man, who is supposed to be a civilised man, finished Killing himself when he tried to find something in the Heart of Darkness.
Itís repeated the contradictions between the civilised world and the third world, the colonial morality and the loneliness of the human being.
Among his long works we remark "the mirror of the Sea" (1906) and "The Secret Agent" (1907). The mirror of the Sea represents the necessary tribute, which the sailor has to pay to his master and of course to the sea.
The secret Agent represents a new experiment for Conrad and he managed to show his versatility. She got away from the sea and the wild jungle. In this work he mixed a thriller with a detective story.
In 1910, he began "Under Western Eyes" a story, which is delivered in chapters.
The main argument is the story of the corruption of the revolutionaries ideas, but his narrative in this book is more complex and richer.
Chance (1914) and Victory (1915) he began his fast career of popularity. The following works: "The Shadow lives" "A Confession (1917) "The arrow of gold" and "A story between two Notes (1919)", certificated the Conradís progressive lost of concentration.
The Rescue (1920) and the Rover (1923) is the best work among his latest works. They show a careful structure without technical faults.
From these works I have decided to do a comparative essay between Gauguin and The Heart of Darkness.
The Heart of Darkness deals about the experience of a sailor who travels to Congo. He shows us all, the journey, describes the sights, the jungle, the culture and mainly the citizens of that Country.
He discovers how the human heart has to fight against itself in the darkness of its own heart.
It is a deep work with an aggressive aesthetic plan. It has more original narrative patterns and the subjects which Conrad work with, come from his deep soul. The finest ambiguity, the beauty of the narrative discourse, the reality of the argument make The heart of darkness one of the most beautiful work in English language.
We canít forget the mythic world where the novel takes place. Marlow was Conradís favourite narrator we can appreciate in Conradís novel the deep darkness of the African jungle and at the same time his investigation through, the darkness of the human heart. Itís deal about a trip to our mind, to the secrets of our mind, and study about the complexity of human beings.
Marlow is the narrator who expresses the Conradís dramatic experience in his trip to Congo, in 1890. Gauguin thinks that the problem is not in the new civilisation but he thinks about problem of the evolution of that civilisation.
Gauguin refuses the old culture, which
is joined to the Greek tradition, which may be the reason for Kurtz (other
character of the hear of Darkness), wanted to civilise the jungle citizens
on his way and he wanted the whole wealth of the jungle:
did not Know exactly in what directions: it was dangerous to impure too
much but mostly his expeditions had been for ivory" pg. 127
His ambiguity, his soliloquy his frightened prediction, his dark, manage the reader to the secrets of his soul.
After observing the darkness of the heart, the dark voice of the jungle transforms his soul forever.
All these aspects are given by Conrad.
Through his descriptions in which he shows us the jungle and its difficulties.
"Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings
of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were
Kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forests. The air
was warm, think, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of
sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the
gloom of overshadowed distances". pg . 99.
This description also can be se en so descriptive and alive in "Paisajes con pavos reales" 1892.
In which Gauguin was looking for the opulent nature, a great range of colours, the exotic and sensual bare bodies of the innocent young primitive girls.
This landscape seemed to have no form as a result of being synthetically represented in violet, vermillion, veronesse green, and other are colours.
All those researches used by Conrad on his descriptions are shown on Gauguinís works of art.
Gauguin indulged in primitism his simple colour harmonies intensified this image, because he wanted his pictured to be pleasing to the eye, he aimed at a decorative effect. His purpose in all this was to express pictorially an "idea".
Gauguinís whole work is a protest against
the soul-destroying materialism of bourgeois civilisation. "Civilisation
that wakes you suffer. Barbarism, which is to me rejuvenation" he wrote.
smell of mund, of primaveral mud, by Jove! Was in my nostrils, the high
stillness of primaveral forest was before my eyes; there were shiny patches
on the black creek. "The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of
silver over the rank grass, over the mud , upon the wall of matted vegetation
standing higher than the wall of a temple, over the great river I could
see though a sombre gap glittering , glittering as it flowed broadly by
without a murmur."(pg 90)
Both authors make referent to the civilisation, Gauguin describes it like something bad, something which robs him his freedom, he can lives on it, and for this reason he travelled to Haiti, however, Conrad thinks that no-civilisation is the jungle. He didnít go there in order to be free or because the civilisation presses him.
There are different points of view, so that one of them thinks that the jungle and the African countries mean freedom and the other one thinks on it as a darkness but. I tend to think , that both authors have something in common , without doubt , in Conradís work the characters of the Heart of darkness suffer the consequences of that civilisation, Kurtz wants to dominate the jungle and at the some time he wants to organise it like his own world, he is the owner of that civilisation, he thinks about himself as the God of that civilisation.
On the contrary, Gauguin runs away from that civilisation because he doesnít want to be under the influence of it , he wants to be free and for that reason he travels to Haiti.
Conrad makes a description of one of the
local woman, in the some way Gauguin paints a portrait of these women,
too " Dos mujeres Tahitianas " 1891. Between
them we find aspects of cohesion.
walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloth treading
the earth proudly with a slight jungle and flash of barbarous ornaments.
She carried her head high, her hair was done in the shape of a helmet,
she had brass legging to the kness, brass wire gauntlets to the elbow,
a crimson stop on hertamny cheek, innumerable neek laces of glass beads
on her neck, bizarre things, charms, gifts of wicth men that hung about
her , glittered and trembled at every step. She must have had the value
of several elephants tusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed
and magnificient; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate
progress " pg. 133-134
I tend to think that the novel develops two different sides, although they are complementary between them: the real side and the imaginary side. This can be called story and co-story.
Indeed, the history is very simple. It is divided into three parts where we can find all the tripís arrangements, his adventures and the return home. But, it is not only this, because he suggests much more than he tells.
But The Heart of Darkness, behind the story he hides an initial trip, an astonish excursion to his particular hell. We can see, easily, the psicological tension to which the author is submitted while he is developing the story. Our author is going to best on new ways of linguistic forms in order to light the narrative discourse. From this point of view he gets a great success with his linguistic discourse. He has to transmit to the reader in indefinite feeling. His descriptions, far from the reality, they are virtual reality with expressions like:
"weary pillgrimage" pg. 75
"The depths of darkness" pg. 80
"Mysterious stillness" pg. 100
playful paw-strokes of the wilderness" pg. 109
I consider this linguistic methods which make it special. Though them, the reader manager to get the heart of the black country and finally to reach to the human heart. I mean, to cross from the story to the co-story. During the trips, Marlow gets into the mystery of the jungle and he gets to known something about Kutz, in the trip he manages to find out his own heart, so the trip gets to show him low he is. On arriving to this level, the story gets the complex moment and we can do different reading about the same story. When Marlow is sailing up to the river, we know how hard and tired is to advance.
On the returning trip we find out the hard experience of knowing oneself (Marlow). On this, the reader is offered some clues to understand the human relationships and how difficult is to understand the human mind.
In this point the story is far from those romantic and exotic features n order to call the attention on the colonisation, the double morality the exploitation, hypocrisy and ambition. Kurtz, who is the eloquent character, hardly ever speaks in this part of the story, he impacts the reader with that wonderful expression ¡The horror !
Conrad makes a lot of mystic references as well as his opposites as light / darkness / life / death....
At the final scene, when Marlow´s
mind is going to his last dramatic revelation, " the Kurtz death", in this
moment Marlow begins his return trip. All that Kurtz could transmit to
Marlow, was The horror! The horror!
Kurtz "Live rightly, die, die....,"
Morlow "His was an impenetrable darkness"
Kurtz" I am lying here in the dark waiting for death."
Marlow "The light was within a foot of his eyes"..."It was a though a veil had been rent...The expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror....Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrended during that supreme moment of complete knowledge?
Kurtz "The horror! The horror!
Marlow " I blew the candle out and left
the cabin ...I remained to dream the nightmare out to the end... The most
you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself that comes too late"
Kurtz stops being a man to be a might . Without race, culture, and idiologyc ideas Kurtz represents the man on his own. It could be related with the horror that Kurtz feels when ha has a look to his life and this makes him analyse the analyse the human nature. But, on the other hand, the ambition and the powder are aspects which are joined to the human being. Kurtz thinks that these ones are virtues but Marlow thinks that they are sins Kurtz, the proud man had adopted the powder and the wealth and he had soul his soul to evil.
Marlow is considered as the right narrator of Conrad´s anguish the author borrows him his childhood dream.
Marlow directs the attention of the reader from the reality to the virtual reality of the tale.
Marlow seems a deep human, sometimes generous, sometimes cynic.
The river trip is not an initial ritual, where the end is the definitely but the progressive trip though the mind and the heart, The Heart of darkness. Marlow is the guide and his movement is hot up and down, is round, too. During the trip Marlow is developing his knowledge but he can finish his instructions, because Kurtz died without telling him the cause of the madness.
Marlow has not heard intelligent advice he has only heard "the horror! The horror! has not got the truth for this reason he said:
"I could not tell her ( the truth ).I would have been too dark- too dark altogether (pg.154).
In this book we can see how Conrad makes a study about the human mind, and a new civilisation. This civilisation impresses Gauguin, too. Both authors describe two different world. Both fall in love of nature. For Conrad the jungle is the world where the real identity of the human being appears. Because the human being thinks that he can dominated the nature, however Gauguin thinks that the nature is the place where to run away from the society which presses him.
Conrad in this novel uses a great quantity of resources as stream of consciousness, and also a human story inside determinate actions. Perhaps it is considered as a dark work due to his monologues and long descriptions, which can make the reader get lost, but there is a big effort in his work because he makes a real human study. Characters as Marlow and Kurtz represent opposites worlds complementary worlds.
Besides, Conrad uses one of his character as his own voice. The impressionism of this novel " The Heart of darkness" is also represented in Gauguin in his pictures, Where great descriptions are mixed with a long rage of colours which also represent the nature would, although seeing from a different point of view.
Perhaps, this way of writing and painting could be very strange on the XIX century but nowadays. We can understand easily.