English Lecture “Heart of Darkness” March 3, 2011
Heart of Darkness
- Like Sir Gawain confronting Death and coming back, that will happen to Marlow
- Marlow meets Kurtz’ intended and associates and interrogates them.
- Similarities and differences between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Heart of
- Marlow begins to question what is happening with the Imperialist project
- He’s capturing the way in which people who aren’t Europeans are given a name
by the Europeans. They’re defined as ‘criminals’ which they aren’t. You would be
labelled a trespasser if you were hunting on European land. This criminalizes
you and makes you into something you are not just for being what you are and
for being at a particular place at a particular time.
- Conrad is capturing the essence of this with the repetition of “call, call” in that
- Significant Omission: No nuns and priests, no one to confirm his aunt’s
delusion that he is taking up ‘the white man’s burden’
- refers to the “philanthropic pretense of the whole concern” maliciously. This is
just a mask for what is really happening here: the commercial exploitation of the
resources of the Congo for the benefit of the British High Center.
- Description of the El Dorado Exploring Expedition band. Goal to tear treasure
out of the bowels of a land. Meant to remind you of Paradise Lost Book 1 l.87
when the fallen angels “rifle the bowels of mother earth for treasures” to build
- Curious connection between Paradise Lost and Imperialism Project.
- Called pilgrims in Paradise Lost. Is this a pilgrimage? No, Kurtz is a parody of
Christ. They aren’t seeking some holy relic, but they’ve set up gold and ivory as
their holy relics.
- example of trope of exploiters as pilgrims.
- “They wandered ere and there with… praying to ivory… never seen anything so
unreal in my life… silent wilderness… struck me as something great and
invincible waiting patiently… for this invasion…”
- So in the midst of this forest, the Imperial node is operating. Sucking in material
from the world surrounding it in order to send goods back to the High Center.
- Marlow is apart from this and becoming moreso as he proceeds, but he’s also a
part of it. He is employed by a company that is exploring the Congo. We find
that he detaches himself from the activities he went out to participate in. English Lecture “Heart of Darkness” March 3, 2011
- He explains significance of Kurtz at the beginning so we understand it. About
finding Kurtz “farthest point of navigation...culminating point of my experience”
- Significance of Kurtz
- The way the novel is set up, there’s no way to come to a crisp, singular, narrow
reading of Kurtz.
- Kurtz and Marlow’s meeting remain shrouded in mystery because of the
aesthetic operating here. The story remains mysterious to us. But because Kurtz
radiates meaning outwards, it’s like being confronted with a riddle.
- Allegory: Something that has a one to one significance to something else,
whereas a symbol has many different meanings that make us want to find out
what they all are.
- p.2364 (significance of Kurtz)
- Now that Kurtz is dead he’s a material object.
- Shadow: essence, spirit.
- All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz. I learned that the
international society for the suppression of savage customs entrusted him with
making a report...it was eloquent, but too high strung…
- SSSC: Careful here. We can’t fall into the trap that savage customs exist
elsewhere. Female genital mutilation; appalling operation which is definitely a
savage custom. There are routinely cases reported of this happening today. One
of those activities that asks you to think clearly about relativeness at all.
- How far will you go to accept things that are “part of a culture”? Some things are
just wrong, no matter if they’re part of the culture or not.
- Think more broadly about this text.
- Kurtz represents Western European Civilization. He’s a c