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Heart of Darkness

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  1. Heart of Darkness

  2. GRAHAM GREENE, Journey without Maps (1936) • I thought for some reason even then of Africa, not a particular place, but a shape, a strangeness, a wanting to know. The unconscious mind is often sentimental; I have written ‘a shape’, and the shape, of course, is roughly that of the human heart. • Africa will always be the Africa of the Victorian atlas, the blank unexplored continent the shape of the human heart.

  3. Factual/Historical Viewpoint • The Congo River was discovered by Europeans in 1482 • No one traveled more than 200 miles upstream until1877 • Is 1,600 miles long and only impassable to water traffic between two places, creating a two-hundred mile overland trip • Matadi (the CompanyStation) • Kinshasa (the Central Station)

  4. History of the Congo • 1878 – King Leopold II of Belgium asked explorer Henry Morton Stanley to set up a Belgian colony in the Congo • Wanted to “end slavery and civilize the natives” • Actually interested in more material benefits • 1885 – Congress of Berlin forms Congo Free State • This was ruled by Leopold II alone • The Congress of Berlin is referred to in the book as “the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs.” • Leopold never even visited the Congo. He set up “the Company” to run it for him.

  5. Africa and Imperialism

  6. CONGO FREE STATE (1885) 1879-1885 Henry Morton Stanley explores the region for Leopold II of Belgium 1890 Conrad’s expedition to the Congo (“Before the Congo I was a mere animal”)

  7. Colonial Africa, circa 1892

  8. Democratic Republic of the Congo 1908 Belgian Congo 1960 Independence 1964 People’s Republic of the Congo 1971 Republic of Zaire 1997 Democratic Republic of the Congo

  9. Democratic Republic of the Congo (1997) The name of this African nation derives from a people known as the BaKongo, first rendered as “Congo” in Portuguese chronicles of exploration in 1482. In their language, the 2,900-mile-long Congo River is called nzadi, “the river that swallows all rivers.”

  10. King Leopold II (reigned 1865 – 1909) Belgian exploitation of the Congo initially focused on the rubber industry.

  11. King Leopold and the Congo • Belgium, as a small country, did not possess numerous overseas colonies, unlike its neighbours, Holland, France, Germany, and Great Britain, but shared their imperial ambitions. Leopold persuaded other European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 to give him personal possession of the Congo. • In 1876 he organized an international association as a front for his private plan to “develop” central Africa. • Leopold used the Congo as a huge money-making resource, committing human rights violations in the process, as he built public works projects in Belgium with the money he accrued.

  12. Belgium’s Stranglehold on the Congo

  13. 5-8 Million Victims (50% of Population) “It is blood-curdling to see them (the soldiers) returning with the hands of the slain, and to find the hands of young children amongst the bigger ones evidencing their bravery...The rubber from this district has cost hundreds of lives, and the scenes I have witnessed, while unable to help the oppressed, have been almost enough to make me wish I were dead... This rubber traffic is steeped in blood, and if the natives were to rise and sweep every white person on the Upper Congo into eternity, there would still be left a fearful balance to their credit.” -- Belgian Official

  14. Countries such as France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain that acquired large empires exploited both land and people. However… • Some measures to protect the rights of overseas subjects were introduced. • Rights of women and men to vote. • Protection against industrial exploitation was making child labour illegal and improving employment conditions. • Some of these rights were followed in the African colonies…..but NOT BY LEOPOLD II • Leopold had to give up the Congo to Belgium in 1908 as a result of the international campaign exposing Leopold’s activities in the Congo. White King, Red Rubber, Black Death

  15. King Leopold’s Ghost • Novel by Adam Hochschild written in 1998 • Tells the horrific story of King Leopold’s colonial rule over a country and it’s native peoples. • Based on the true story of the colonial activities. • King Leopold II, never set foot in the Congo, but managed to ruin a country…his ghost remains today in memories of the Congolese.

  16. The Explorer Stanley’s Role • H. M. Stanley, a journalist who explored the Congo on an expedition financed by King Leopold of Belgium. • Stanley greatly aided his backer in gaining a firm foothold in what was to become the Belgian Congo (later Zaire), now the Democratic Republic of Congo. • King Leopold II never set foot in Africa.

  17. “The White Man’s Burden”* “King Leopold found the Congo…cursed by cannibalism, savagery, and despair; and he has been trying with patience, which I can never sufficiently admire, to relieve it of its horrors, rescue it from its oppressors, and save it from perdition.” --H.M. Stanley *The idea that Europeans must carry the burden of civilizing Africa.

  18. Different Motives of Imperialism Take up the White Man’s burden-- Send forth the best ye breed-- Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild-- Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. Some Westerners felt it was their duty to “civilize” the “savage” inhabitant of colonial lands in order to make them more “modern” and European. The English writer Rudyard Kipling displayed such an attitude in 1899 with a poem entitle “The White Man’s Burden.”

  19. The “White Man’s Burden”? The first step toward lightening the White Man’s Burden is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness! Pear’s Soap is a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances, while amongst the cultured of all nations, it holds the highest place-it is the ideal toilet soap.

  20. Ivory and “the White Man’s Burden” • Most Europeans in the 1890s felt that the African peoples needed exposure to European culture and technology to become more evolved. • This responsibility was known as “the white man’s burden” and the fervor to bring Christianity and commerce to Africa grew. • In return for these “benefits,” the Europeans extracted HUGE amounts of ivory.

  21. Ivory, cont. • Uses of ivory in the 1890s • Jewelry and other decorative items • Piano keys • Billiard balls • From 1888 to 1892, the amount of ivory exported from the Congo rose from 13,000 pounds to more than a quarter million pounds. • 1892 – Leopold declares all natural resources in the Congo are his sole property • This gave the Belgians free reign to take whatever they wanted however they wished. • Trade expands, new stations are established farther and farther away

  22. The Results of Ivory Fever • Documented atrocities committed by the Belgian ivory traders include the severing of hands and heads. • Reports of this, combined with Conrad’s portrayal of the system in Heart of Darkness, led to an international protest movement against Belgium’s presence in Africa • Leopold outlawed these practices, but his decree had little effect • Belgian parliament finally took control away from the king • Belgium did not grant independence to the Congo until 1960

  23. Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) Uncle Sam: “The Colossus of the Pacific” (A Parody) “The Colossus of Rhodes”

  24. Joseph Conrad’s Life • Born Josef Teodore Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski, inPodolia, Ukraine, 3 December1857. • Conrad’s father and mother,Apollo and Ewa, were politicalactivists. They were imprisoned 7 months and eventually deported to Vologda. • Apollo introduced him son to the work of Dickens, Fenimore Cooper and Captain Marryat in Polish and French translations.

  25. Joseph Conrad’s Life • His father died of tuberculosis and his funeral was attended by a thousand admirers • Conrad was raised by his uncle; attended school (he was disobedient) • In 1874, Conrad went to Marseilles, France, and joined the Merchant Navy. • Gun running for the Spanish and a love affair led to a suicide attempt. • Conrad became a British merchant sailor and eventually a master mariner and citizen in 1886. His ten years in the British Merchant Marine shaped most of his stories.

  26. Joseph Conrad’s Life • Conrad traveled widely in the east. • He took on a stint as a steamer captain (1890) in the Congo, but became ill within three months and had to leave. • Conrad retired from sailing and took up writing full time. • Died of a heart attack in 1924. • Buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

  27. Heart of Darkness • First published as a serial in London’s Blackwood Magazine in 1899 • First unified publication in1902 • Considered by many to be the finest short novel ever written in English • Bridges the Victorian and Modern literary periods • Modern criticism sharply divided over merit due to racist/imperialist themes

  28. Heart of Darkness Background • After a long stint in the east had come to an end, he was having trouble finding a new position. • With the help of a relative in Brussels he got the position as captain of a steamer for a Belgian trading company. • Conrad had always dreamed of sailing the Congo • He had to leave early for the job, as the previous captain was killed in a trivial quarrel

  29. Heart of Darkness Background • Conrad saw some of the most shocking and depraved examples of human corruption he’d ever witnessed. He was disgusted by the ill treatment of the natives, the scrabble for loot, the terrible heat and the lack of water. • He saw human skeletons of bodies left to rot - many were men from the chain gangs building the railroads. • He found his ship was damaged. • Dysentary was rampant as was malaria; Conrad had to terminate his contract due to illness and never fully recovered

  30. Heart of DarknessNarrative Structure • Framed Narrative • Narrator begins • Marlow takes over • Narrator breaks in occasionally • Marlow is Conrad’s alter-ego, he shows up in some of Conrad’s other works including “Youth: A Narrative” and Lord Jim • Marlow recounts his tale while he is on a small vessel on the Thames with some drinking buddies who are ex-merchant seamen. As he recounts his story the group sits in an all-encompassing darkness.

  31. Narrative Structure of Heart of Darkness

  32. Light vs. Dark Heavy vs. Light Inferiority vs. Superiority Civil vs. Savage Interior vs. Exterior Illusion vs. Truth Misogyny vs. Misanthropy Insanity vs. Sanity Racism vs. Anti-racism Imperialism vs. Insularity Evil What makes well-intentioned people do bad things? Contrastsin Heart of Darkness

  33. Heart of Darkness Motifs • Darkness • Primitive Impulses (Kurtz, previous captain, etc.) • Cruelty of Man (Kurtz and Company) • Immorality/Amorality (Kurtz) • Lies/Hypocrisy (Marlow chooses Kurtz’s evil versus Company’s hypocritical evil) • Imperialization/Colonization (Belgian Company) • Greed / Exploitation of People • Power Corrupts • Savage vs. Civil

  34. Heart of Darkness Motifs • Role of Women • Civilization exploitive of women • Civilization as a binding and self-perpetuating force • Physical connected to Psychological • Barriers (fog, thick forest) • Rivers (connection to past, parallels time and journey)

  35. Varied Interpretations • Some feel the novel offers a scathing attack on colonialist ideology, others feel the novel celebrates and defends colonialization and racism. • Some see Kurtz as the embodiment of all the evil and horror of capitalist society. • Others view it as a portrayal of one man’s journey into the primitive unconscious where one must confront one’s own inner darkness. • Still others see it as a modern journey quest, perhaps with an anti-hero rather than a hero.

  36. Early Hailed as a portrayal of the demoralizing effect life in the African wilderness supposedly had on European men Praised as a study of the collapse of the white man’s morality when he is released from the restraints of European law and order Modern Criticized for the blatantly racist attitudes it portrays Some believe Conrad was simply reflecting the attitudes held common at the time Others believe he may have been holding the ideas up for scorn and ridicule Criticism – Early and Modern

  37. Victorian (1837 – 1901) Traditional subject matter, form, and style Deals with issues of the day, including Social, economic, religious, and intellectual issues Industrial Revolution Class tensions, early feminist movement, pressures for social and political reform Impact of Darwin’s theories on evolution Modern (post WWI – WWII) Authors experiment with subject matter, form, and style Deals with issues of the day, including Horrors of WWI Massive loss of life Loss of faith Expanding technology and science Also encompassed/is related to Postmodernism Victorian and Modern Literature

  38. Review of Criticism • Paul O’Prey: “It is an irony that the ’failures’ of Marlow and Kurtz are paralleled by a corresponding failure of Conrad’s technique—brilliant though it is—as the vast abstract darkness he imagines exceeds his capacity to analyze and dramatize it, and the very inability to portray the story’s central subject, the ‘unimaginable,’ the ‘impenetratable’ (evil, emptiness, mystery or whatever) becomes a central theme.” • James Guetti complains that Marlow “never gets below the surface,” and is “denied the final self-knowledge that Kurtz had.?

  39. Review of Criticism • Conrad, writing in 1922, responds to similar criticism: “Explicitness, my dear fellow, is fatal to the glamour of all artistic work, robbing it of all suggestiveness, destroying all illusion. You seem to believe in literalness and explicitness, in facts and in expression. Yet nothing is more clear than the utter insignificance of explicit statement and also its power to call attention away from things that matter in the region of art.”

  40. Review of Criticism Marlowe, the narrator, describes how difficult conveying a story is: “Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible, which is the very essence of dream . . .No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone.”

  41. Review of Criticism • Marxist: You can see Heart of Darkness as a depiction of, and an attack upon, colonialism in general, and, more specifically, the particularly brutal form colonialism took in the Belgian Congo. • the mistreatment of the Africans • the greed of the so-called “pilgrims” • the broken idealism of Kurtz • the French man-of-war lobbing shells into the jungle • the grove of death upon which Marlow stumbles • the little note that Kurtz appends to his noble-minded essay on The Suppression of Savage Customs • the importance of ivory to the economics of the system.

  42. Review of Criticism • Sociological/Cultural: Conrad was also apparently interested in a more general sociological investigation of those who conquer and those who are conquered, and the complicated interplay between them. • Marlow’s invocation of the Roman conquest of Britain • cultural ambiguity of those Africans who have taken on some of the ways of their Europeans • the ways in which the wilderness tends to strip away the civility of the Europeans and brutalize them • Conrad is not impartial and scientifically detached from these things, and he even has a bit of fun with such impartiality in his depiction the doctor who tells Marlow that people who go out to Africa become “scientifically interesting.”

  43. Review of Criticism • Psychological/Psychoanalytical: Conrad goes out of his way to suggest that in some sense Marlow’s journey is like a dream or a return to our primitive past—an exploration of the dark recesses of the human mind. • Apparent similarities to the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud in its suggestion that dreams are a clue to hidden areas of the mind • we are all primitive brutes and savages, capable of the most appalling wishes and the most horrifying impulses (the Id) • we can make sense of the urge Marlow feels to leave his boat and join the natives for a savage whoop and holler • notice that Marlow keeps insisting that Kurtz is a voice—a voice who seems to speak to him out of the heart of the immense darkness

  44. Review of Criticism • Religious: Heart of Darkness as an examination of various aspects of religion and religious practices. • examine the way Conrad plays with the concept of pilgrims and pilgrimages • the role of Christian missionary concepts in the justifications of the colonialists • the dark way in which Kurtz fulfills his own messianic ambitions by setting himself up as one of the local gods

  45. Review of Criticism • Moral-Philosophical: Heart of Darkness is preoccupied with general questions about the nature of good and evil, or civilization and savagery • What saves Marlow from becoming evil? • Is Kurtz more or less evil than the pilgrims? • Why does Marlow associate lies with mortality?

  46. Review of Criticism • Formalist: Focus on the literary patterns and structures inherent in Heart of Darkness • Threes: There are three parts to the story, three breaks in the story (1 in pt. 1 and 2 in pt. 2), and three central characters: the outside narrator, Marlow and Kurtz • Contrasting images (dark and light, open and closed) • Center to periphery: Kurtz->Marlow->Outside Narrator->the reader • Are the answers to be found in the center or on the periphery?

  47. Review of Criticism • Modernism: Heart of Darkness published in the Late Victorian Era exhibits mostly modern traits: • a distrust of abstractions as a way of delineating truth • an interest in an exploration of the psychological • a belief in art as a separate and somewhat privileged kind of human experience • a desire for transcendence mingled with a feeling that transcendence cannot be achieved • an awareness of and interest in primitiveness and savagery as the condition upon which civilization is built • a skepticism and a sense that multiplicity, ambiguity, and irony—in life and in art—are the necessary responses of the intelligent mind to the human condition.

  48. Movie Versions of the Book