Friday, June 4, 2010

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The story is basically Marlow at a dinner party reminiscing about his first time at sea and is largely autobiographical. Marlow tells the tale about the ill-fated voyage to the East and the transportation of the ship’s cargo (coal). Though every bad thing that could have happened to this ship did, all the seamen survived and Marlow remained in good spirits through the entire journey—though that could have been misrepresented in the retelling due to the massive amounts of alcohol Marlow was consuming during the narrative.

I was a little disappointed in the Heart of Darkness. I think mostly because I was looking for a horror story, and this story definitely was not it.

The story is supposed to be disturbing. I told Otty that I did not find the tale to be unsettling and he reminded me that I need to remember when it was written. I am usually good at putting myself in the context of when the story was written, which this one was written in the late 1800’s. I think my problem with the story is that yes, the heart of darkness was a destination, but it was the people that made it so. The greed and desperation of man is what the heart of darkness truly contained. I believe I am unimpressed with this book because man has not changed in the last 100 years. Man is still just as greedy today and he was then, if not more so. Now, the deeds of men (the darkness of men) are normal practice. Maybe I am just terribly jaded.

I did not find inspiration from Joseph Conrad’s prose either. For the most part, I felt that his writing was somewhat flat and unimaginative. I did however; thoroughly enjoy what is called Conrad’s “delayed decoding.” Ian Watt describes this as “the verbal equivalent of the impressionist painter’s attempt to render visual sensation directly…present[ing] a sense impression and…withhold[ing] naming it or explaining its meaning until later.”

Though I was not thrilled with the book, I am still glad that I read it. The Heart of Darkness is one of the classic literature pieces that being able to say you have read is always respectable.
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