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Conrad's Heart Of Darnkness And Narration

3028 words - 13 pages

As a writer, Joseph Conrad struggles with the difficulty of story telling and the perilous task of trying to 'make them understand'. This debate finds its way into many of Conrad's novels and is intrinsically tied to one of his most famous works, Heart of Darkness. The problems of story telling lie both in the narrator and with in the nature of language itself, but as well, it is these two components that allow Conrad to develop many thematic issues throughout the novel. Due to the very nature of narration, issues such as motivation, credibility and influence need to be examined. As well, the use of language itself can be problematic. There is the difficulty of the ambiguities of meaning and ...view middle of the document...

Marlow reaches Kurtz but instead of secrets all he finds is darkness. In the end Kurtz has succumbed to his surroundings and Marlow grapples with Kurtz's demise and the "horror" he has seen (HOD 97).In order to save himself, Marlow is given a trait that everyone else lacks, restraint. "Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts" and because of this he was not able to survive (HOD 86). It is Marlow's disciplined work ethic that allows him to be a narrator and a survivor (De Mile 94). Marlow explains to his listeners, "You wonder I didn't go ashore for a howl and a dance? Well, no - I didn't . . . I had no time" (HOD 64). By concentrating on his work and the surface of things, Marlow is able to avoid the impulses and the horrible realities of the Congo. "When you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality - the reality - the reality, I tell you - fades. The inner truth is hidden - luckily, luckily" (HOD 62). Now that he has survived the experience, Marlow is forced to face it and he does this through narration.For Marlow the act of narration is motivated by a strong need for ordering and linguistically structuring distance from his experiences in the Congo, while paradoxically actualizing his experience there (Lothe 39). Narration allows for self-preservation and protection. It creates a shield by moving attention away from a threatening primary experience to retelling the story, and at the same time it also helps the narrator to better understand the incidence. Like a dream we are able to tell another person about our vivid experience but they cannot know what it was like to truly be there. "We live as we dream - alone . . ." (HOD 55). Although no one can relive what has been experienced, communication makes it possible to gain a knowledge and understanding, which often can be even greater than the experience itself. This communication also benefits the dreamer, as only through discussion can they truly understand what has happened and the meaning behind it. Thus the listener and the dreamer come to realize the actuality and impact of the experience, even if at different levels. For Marlow, the act of narration allows him to come to a realization that enables him to survive and also preserve Kurtz's memory.Narration both explains and evades what lies beneath in terms of ones own reality; therefore, how one perceives the situation to have been and how it has shaped their life since then will greatly effect how they retell the story. And in Marlow's case, where he said that the circumstances "seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me," it can be even more troublesome to see the facts clearly (HOD 35). This framing brings to question a problem of narration, how accurate is memory and thus calls into question narrative credibility. "The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future" (HOD 64). Conrad...

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