Sample Scholarship Essays

Heart Of Darkness

.. elsewhere. The Europeans apply the terms ‘enemy’ and ‘criminals’ to the natives. In actuality, they are simply “bewildered and helpless victims..and moribund shadows”(Berthoud. 46). Clearly, the injustice done by the simple misnaming of someone is unbelievable.

After witnessing all of these names which bare no true meaning, as well as possibly degrade a person’s character, Marlow understands that he can not continue in his former ways of mindlessly giving random names to something in fear of diminishing the essence of the recipient. As a result, Marlow finds himself unable to label something for what it is. While under attack, Marlow reefers to the arrows being shot in his direction as “sticks, little sticks”, and a spear being thrown at his boat “a long cane”(75–77). When Marlow arrives at the inner station, he sees “slim posts..in a row” with their “ends ornamented with round carved balls”(88). In truth, these are poles with skulls on top of them.

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Marlow can formulate a name even for the simplest of things. Taking a step back and looking at his voyage, Marlow realizes the insignificant, mindless, meaningless ‘labels’ which the Europeans use to identify with something, and he wants to be able to”give to experience, names that have some substance”. At this point, he is similar to Adam in the Garden of Eden who is “watching the parade of nameless experience” go by. However, Marlow is missing an essential thing which Adam possessed. As opposed to Adam, who was delegated by G-d to name experiences, Marlow lacked this authority to name. It is Kurtz who will become this authority, and eventually teach Marlow the essence of a name(Johnson.

76). Mr. Kurtz is the Chief of the Inner Station. He is a “universal genius, a prodigy, an emissary of pity science and progress”(40-45). It is Kurtz who will teach Marlow what a name is, for one simple reason.. “The man presented himself as a voice..of all his gifts, the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating..(79).” Kurtz was “little more than a voice”(80), but there was no one with a voice like his.

He could speak with remarkable eloquence, he could write with such precision.. he could name with true meaning! “You don’t talk with that man[Kurtz], you listen to him”(90)! Marlow has heard enough about Kurtz, in this case from his devoted pupil, to know that it is he who can provide Marlow with the authority to offer”correct and substantial names”(Johnson. 76). Indeed, Kurtz gives Marlow everything Marlow is looking for. However, he does it in a very unconventional way. Kurtz teaches Marlow the lesson with his last words. “The horror! The horror!”(118).

These last words are Kurtz’s own judgment, judgment on the life which he has lived. He is barbarous, unscrupulous, and possibly even evil. However, he has evaluated at his life, and he has “pronounced a judgment upon the adventures of his soul on this earth”(118). Marlow sees Kurtz “open his mouth wide—it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him..”(101). Kurtz takes everything in. He takes his life, and puts it all out on the table.

“He had summed up— he had judged..The horror!”(119). Kurtz’s last words is his way of teaching Marlow the essence of a name. A name is not merely a label. It is one man’s own judgment of an isolated event. However, unlike the Europeans who judge based on already existing principles which they have ‘acquired’, Kurtz taught Marlow to look inside of himself and to judge based on his own subjective creeds.

While Marlow is recounting the story, he says to his comrades: “He must meet that truth with his own true stuff—with his own inborn strength. Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, prettyrags—rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. An appeal to me in this fiendish row—is there? Very well; I hear; I admit, but have a voice too, and for good or evil mine is the voice that can not be silenced (60).” This is the lesson which Marlow has learned. Objective standards alone will not lead one to recognize the reality in something. One can not only depend on anther’s principles to find his reality in something because they have not had to bear the pain and responsibility of creating it.

Principles are usually acquisitions, which like other things we acquire rather than generate, like clothes are easily shaken off. The power of speech which will sustain a man is the power to create or affirm for one’s self a deliberate, or a chosen belief (Bruce Johnson. 79). This judgment must be from one’s own internal strengths. That is why Marlow says, “for good or evil, mine is the speech that can not be silenced”. As Kurtz has taught him with his own judgment, a judgment of truth overpowers morality. To find one’s own reality, one must not rely solely on other people’s morality, others people’s ‘principles’ and he must assess his own life.

What Kurtz did is that he showed that regardless of whether the truth is good or bad, one must face up to his reality. He must face up to his own actions even when the conclusion is”the horror”, and by doing so, he will find his true reality. Marlow understands that being true to yourself is not following anther’s moral code, but being able to judge one’s self honestly and uncover their own reality. It is because of this understanding that Marlow claims that Kurtz’s last words is “a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats..”(120). Despite Kurtz’s immoral ways, he is victorious because he didn’t run away from the truth; and that is his moral victory. He is true to himself.! On his voyage, Marlow notices at one of the stations, a picture that Kurtz had drawn when he was there.

It is a”sketch in oils on a panel representing a woman draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was sombre—almost black”(40). At the time, Marlow didn’t really know what it meant. However, this is a precise representation of Kurtz himself. Firstly, the background was”sombre—almost black”. This is a manifestation of Kurtz because his life is full of darkness.

He kills, he steals, and he is worshipped as a god. Kurtz cannot be without blackness and survive. In addition, the picture displays the lesson itself. It is a picture of the lady of justice holding a torch. This is Kurtz’s role. Unlike Europe, which imposes their principles upon others, he is merely there to “illuminate”(79).

Kurtz is there to expand the peoples minds, to introduce them to a broad new spectrum of reality. However, he does not impose his own reality upon them. Hence, he is blindfolded in the picture. To him, they make a subjective decision and they find their own truth, regardless of what that truth may be. That is his lesson.

Eventually Marlow realizes that Kurtz’s picture was in essence, a self portrait. The same thing which Kurtz conveyed with ‘the horror’, he conveyed with this picture. Marlow’s realization is evident with this remark. “I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what’s in the work—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality—for yourself, not for others”(47). Marlow learns the essence of ‘naming’ and understands what it means to ‘be yourself’. However, Marlow has encountered two extremes.

The European mentality, which is completely oblivious to reality, and Kurtz, a man who has found his reality, but it is one of horror and no restraint from any wrongdoing. He is now returning to his home to deal with his former world, however, he now possesses his new ‘understanding’. Marlow cannot return to his previous ‘European ways’ simply because he has ‘been enlightened’ and lost his naivete. However, why can’t he adapt Kurtz’s ways and live the other extreme? At one point, Marlow had “peeped over the edge”(119). Why didn’t he ‘jump over’? Marlow is repelled from joining Kurtz for several reasons.

Firstly, Kurtz had “kicked himself loose from the earth..he had kicked the earth to pieces. He was alone, and I[Marlow] before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air”(112). Kurtz had denied any sort of moral convictions in order to be worshipped as a god. Because of this unmonitered power, Kurtz lost all sense of restraint and became the savage that he was. Marlow, however, has not lost his sense of morality. What Marlow rejected in Kurtz was the “complete absence in Kurtz of any innate or transcendental sanctions” (Johnson.

99). It is because of Marlow’s rejection of both the Europeans, who Marlow claims are full of “stupid importance”, and of Kurtz’sinability to establish his own moral code, that Marlow chooses an “alternative reality”(Berthoud. 60). The first time the reader witnesses Marlow’s choice and becomes a centrist, is when he first gets back to Europe. Marlow finds himself resenting the way the Europeans went about their life, “hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other..”(120).Not only did he find their lives meaningless, but he mocked them to himself.

“I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty restraining myself from laughing in their faces so full of stupid importance.. I tottered about the streets..grinning bitterly at perfectly respectable people. I admit my behavior was inexcusable..” (120). Although Marlow looked down upon these Europeans, he says something remarkable. He judged his own actions and found them ‘inexcusable’.

This is his manifestation of breaking away from Kurtz’s extreme. Unlike Kurtz who lacked all restraint and would never find looking down on people bad, Marlow realized that he couldn’t hold it against them simply because they didn’t know better. Clearly, Marlow is edging toward a ‘middle ground’. Despite this act of judgment, the reader doesn’t know exactly where Marlow stands. However, Marlow does something that is the quintessential act of affirmation that he has chose the middle of the two extremes.

While aboard the Nellie, Marlow tells his comrades that “I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie..simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies..”(44). Towards the end of the novel, Marlow is invited by Kurtz’s fiancee to go to her house to speak of her beloved Kurtz. Upon her asking Marlow what his last words were, Marlow responded “The last word he pronounced was—your name”(131). He lies to her. He does something he utterly detests.

This is the event that convinces the reader of Marlow’s uptaking of a middle position. He does look inside himself and use his own personal ability to judge this event. He does what Kurtz had told him. Despite his abhorrence of lies, he judges this situation and decides that it was right to lie. However, he is different from Kurtz. Kurtz did judge every event independently, however, he does it solely based on his own whims. He could not incorporate any objective principles whatsoever in making his decision.

Marlow does judge every event independently, however, he can not rely solely on his own creeds. Regardless of his decision, he will always incorporate some objective principles into his judgment. Marlow now creates his ‘alternative reality’ and achieves his truth. When Marlow was exposed to the imperialistic environment of the congo, it had a tremendous effect upon him. The protagonist of Conrad’s novel undergoes a drastic change in response to his environment, common only to that specific time period.

Kurtz shows Marlow the flaws in the Europeans imperialistic ideals. Kurtz sees the meaninglessness of European standards of the time, and therefore changes his entire perception and behavior.

Heart Of Darkness

1. Does Conrad really “otherize,” or impose racist ideology upon, the Africans in Heart of Darkness, or does Achebe merely see Conrad from the point of view of an African? Is it merely a matter of view point, or does there exist greater underlying meaning in the definition of racism?
2. How does Achebe’s personal history and the context in which he wrote “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” reflect the manner in which he views Conrad’s idea of racism in the novel?
3. Taking into account Achebe’s assumptions and analysis of racism in Heart of Darkness, how does this change Conrad’s novel as a literary work, if it does at all?
The literal heart of darkness in Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness does not merely incorporate the Belgian Congo, the African savages, the journey to the innermost soul, and England as the corruptor in its attempted colonization of the African people for selfish and commercial purposes. In “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness ,” Achebe accuses Conrad of racism as the essential “heart of darkness.”
Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world,’ the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality…it is not the differentness that worries Conrad but the lurking hint of kinship, of common ancestry. For the Thames too ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth.’ It conquered its darkness, of course, and is now in daylight and at peace. But if it were to visit its primordial relative, the Congo, it would run the terrible risk of hearing grotesque echoes of its own forgotten darkness, and falling victim to an avenging recrudescence of the mindless frenzy of the first beginnings. (4)
One might contend that this attitude toward the African in Heart of Darkness does not belong to Conrad, but rather to Marlow, and that far from endorsing it “Conrad might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism.” (9) According to Achebe “Conrad appears to go to considerable pains to set up layers of insulation between himself and the moral universe of his story.” (9) For example, Conrad has a narrator behind a narrator — he gives us Marlow’s account through the filter of a second person. Achebe thus elucidates how “Conrad seems…to approve of Marlow, with only minor reservations — a fact reinforced by the similarities between their two careers.” (10)
Furthermore, Achebe views Conrad as espousing a kind of liberalism that “touched all the best minds of the age in England, Europe and America. It took different forms in the minds of different people but almost always managed to sidestep the ultimate question of equality between white people and black people…Conrad would not use the word ‘brother’ however qualified; the farthest he would go was ‘kinship.'” (11) in Heart of Darkness. Recognizing this fundamental flaw in Conrad, Achebe thus labels the white European author a “thoroughgoing racist” (11).
Although many students “will point out to you that Conrad is, if anything, less charitable to the Europeans in the story than he is to the natives, that the point of the story is to ridicule Europe’s civilizing mission in Africa” (12), and despite the fact that Achebe recognizes to a certain extent that Africa serves as a setting and backdrop which eliminates the African as a human factor, he challenges readers of Heart of Darkness to “see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind.” (12) But Achebe does not see this as the real point. Instead, “the real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world.” (12). Questioning whether a novel which “celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art” (12), Achebe responds by doubting Conrad’s talents as a writer.
Achebe accounts for Conrad’s racism against black Africans because of his personal history– “there remains still in Conrad’s attitude a residue of antipathy to black people which his peculiar psychology alone can explain. His own account of his first encounter with a black man is very revealing:
A certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my Conrad’s conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my days. Of the nigger I used to dream for years afterwards.


Certainly Conrad had a problem with niggers.” (13)
Thus, Achebe clearly sees Heart of Darkness as a racist text, one “which parades in the most vulgar fashion prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered untold agonies and atrocities in the past and continues to do so in many ways and many places today. He is talking about a story in which the very humanity of black people is called into question” (15) However, Achebe partly does save the reputation of Conrad when he concedes that “Conrad did not originate the image of Africa which we find in his book. It was and is the dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination…Conrad saw and condemned the evil of imperial exploitation but was strangely unaware of the racism on which it sharpened its iron tooth.” (19)
Source
Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” New York: Doubleday, 1989, pp.1-20.

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Heart Of Darkness

Heart Of Darkness Throughout the story, Heart of Darkness, there is a thin line between what is seen as reality and what is illusion. The main character soon realizes that he has different interpretations of events and physical things than that of the Europeans. Charlie Marlow first realizes how many things, events and even people, in Africa, seemed misnamed by the Europeans, distorting them from what they truly are. Consequently he is wary of labeling something in case he might misname it and as a result devalue it. In the end, Kurtz, who has already reached enlightenment, will be the one to teach Marlow, though not directly, the significance of a name. Charlie Marlow is the only one to be referred to by his name because through his journey to the inner station and consequent enlightenment, he alone, with Kurtz, have realized the importance of a name and therefore deserve to have one attached to them, as they are really the only people of actual importance and meaning. As soon as Marlow reaches the coast of Africa, he realizes a difference in the perception of certain events by him and his comrades on the boat.

As Marlows boat pulls up to the Outer Station, he sees a man-of-war shelling the continent, which is quickly clarified, by a pilgrim, to be a front against a camp of natives – he called them enemies! – hidden out of sight somewhere (Conrad 78) Marlow felt a touch of insanity in the whole concept of shelling the natives, who had done nothing to be considered enemies or criminals and had very likely fled the area a long time ago. Yet the Europeans feel that the natives are truly a threat and must be controlled. Further along, Marlow meets a pilgrim who is called the brick-maker, yet promptly notices that there is not a scrap of brick anywhere in the station. This is another example of how something, in this case the brick-maker, is misnamed, as he is not actually a brick-maker since he does not make any bricks at all, and therefore really has no purpose there. A final example of how things are misnamed and distorted is pertaining to Kurtz.

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Firstly, kurtz means short, yet to Marlow, the man appears to be seven feet long (Conrad 135). Likewise, when the uncle and the nephew talk about Kurtz, who Marlow has heard to be a great and remarkable man, they only refer to him as that man and scoundrel. By not referring to him by his name, they do not refer to him as a human being with abilities and dignity, but as a thing, therefore stripping him of his humanity. After seeing how misnaming things can devalue them and cause much misinterpretation, Marlow has trouble naming things in fear of devaluing them. When the natives are attacking his boat he refers to the arrows and spears as little sticks and canes; when he reaches the inner station, he describes the heads on the posts as slim posts in a row, with their upper ends ornamented with round carved balls (Conrad 126). He is even wary of even formulating names for the simplest of things, in case he devalues something like the Europeans do. It is this understanding of the insignificance of meaningless labels that the Europeans had, and conversely the importance of his making things meaningful that will lead to Marlows enlightenment.

Since he is not corrupted by the materialistic ideals of the rest of them, he is able to see the situation with an objective view and reflect upon it. Also, he feels a certain bond between the natives when he sees them dancing about on the shore, which shows that Marlow is looking into his subconscious: but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you could comprehend. (Conrad 106) Since the Europeans thought only about subjugating the natives and hording ivory, they were not in-tune with their subconscious and therefore unable to find the truths and the reality within them. The natives represented simple reality uncorrupted by European values of physical wealth, which Marlow noticed. After meeting Kurtz, who teaches him about self-truth and reality, in a more unconventional way, he understands that being able to name something is to be able to pass ones own judgement on an event. And to be able to do this, one must not depend on pre-existing principles, but meet that truth with his own true stuff with his own inborn strength.

Principles will not do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief. (Conrad 106) Principles, which we often receive from others, have no real value to us since we did not have to work and suffer to realize them. Therefore names will not have any value or meaning to us, they will be just a name. That is why the Europeans cannot reach enlightenment and see their inner subconscious, since they only use principles that they have acquired from before and they really do not think for themselves; they are just hollow papier-mch, which Marlow can almost poke his finger through and find nothing but a little loose dirt, maybe (Conrad 93).

Likewise, that is why Kurtz can reach enlightenment, to the extreme, and be able to truly name things, because he completely disregards moral rules and societys code of conduct and has as a result become a savage who is unscrupulous and barbarous. This is however, the opposite extreme from the disillusioned Europeans, who live shallow and pointless lives that do not amount to anything significant. The way in which Kurtz taught Marlow about truth and inner strength was through his last words, which was his judgement upon the adventures of his soul on this earth (148). Marlow describes how Kurtz seemed to want to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him; he takes everything in, his entire life, all the events and judged it in two words, The horror; even if it was not the ideal life. When Marlow explains the importance of inner strength, he says, for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced! (106) The strength of the matter comes from not turning away from the judgement if it is evil but facing up to it.

That is why Marlow admires Kurtz; even though his life was evil and immoral, he faced and judged it; not trying to hide it under lies and excuses; it is realizing who and what you are. And in order to find out who you are Marlow sees work as an excellent method. I dont like work no man does but I like what is in the work the chance to find yourself (Conrad 97) By going through life with a purpose, such as work, we will be able to find out our strengths and thus learn more about ourselves. However, there is a limit to how much of that personal knowledge of yourself that one should live out. Kurtz went all the way and lived out his primitive unconscious self, while Marlow peeped over the edge but stepped back into civilization, not going all the way. The reason he did not follow in Kurtzs footsteps was because he could not fully ignore his morality to that extreme that Kurtz did.

Yet when Marlow returns to Europe, he has a certain disgust in the simplistic European way of life, and he hates himself for thinking that, but he cannot help it since he has lost his naivite. It takes an open mind and personal reflection to be able to reach your inner self. It is because of this that Marlow, as well as Kurtz, are the only ones referred to by name; they, as a result of their enlightenment, are the only ones that know the true meaning of a name and the importance of inner strength and being true to oneself. Bibliography Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad English Essays.

Heart Of Darkness

“There is…a machine. It evolved itself…and behold!–it knits….It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time, space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions–and nothing matters.

three evident themes include death, corruption, and despair. During Marlow’s journey into the “heart of darkness,” death, corruption, and despair became the manifest themes of the novel. First of all, Marlow came face to face with death several times throughout his voyage. Marlow finds out about the death of Kurtz, the climax of the novel, when the manager’s boy said to Marlow, “Mistah Kurtzhe dead” (Conrad 64). Another death occurs when the attack on the steamer leaves the helmsmen dead with “the shaft of a spear in the side just below the ribs” (Conrad 64). Marlow decides to “tip him overboard” because “if his late helmsmen was to be eaten, the fishes alone should have him. He had been a very second-rate helmsmen” (Conrad 47). Second, corruption overshadowed all other themes as the major theme of the novel. As Marlow’s journey progresses, the corruption of the trading business becomes increasingly obvious. Kurtz “had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together” (Conrad 43). Despite his reputation as a thief and a swindler, people in the ivory trading business regarded Kurtz as a “first-class agent” and “a very remarkable person” (Conrad 16). In addition, when Marlow came to Kurtz’s station to trade with him, “Kurtz ordered an attack to be made on the steamer” (Conrad 58), even though Marlow came in peace. Finally, Marlow sees the despair of the existence of humans while in the “heart of darkness.” When Kurtz lay on his deathbed, Marlow “saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terrorof an intense and hopeless despair” (Conrad 64). Also, the manager told Marlow that Kurtz “suffered too much. He hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away. When I had a chance I begged him to try and leave while there was time; I offered to go back with him. And he would say yes, and then he would remain; go off on another ivory hunt” (Conrad 51-52). Clearly, Marlow saw death, corruption, and despair in the “heart of darkness.” In all, Conrad used his own experiences and his views on life as the basis for this novel. He used his experiences from his journey down the Congo River on a steamer for the basic plot of the novel. In addition, the themes of death, corruption, and despair describe the fatalistic attitude of Conrad. He saw these themes at the heart of human existence, and Marlow confronts them in the “heart of darkness.”
The “heart of darkness” can be a symbolic journey into the dark center of the heart and soul of a human, revealing the concealed evil of ones own nature and his capacity for evil. It is a psychological exploration of the inner self; it reflects the unconscious self of a human.

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Marlow does not get the opportunity to see Kurtz until he is so disease-stricken he looks more like death than a person. There are no good looks or health. In the story Marlow remarks that Kurtz resembles “an animated image of death carved out of old ivory.”
The manager, in charge of three stations in the jungle, feels Kurtz poses a threat to his own position. Marlow sees how the manager is deliberately trying to delay any help or supplies to Kurtz. He hopes he will die of neglect. This is where the inciting moment of the story lies. Should the company in Belgium find out the truth a bout Kurtz’s success in an ivory procurer, they would undoubtedly elevate him to the position of manager. The manager’s insidious and pretending nature opposes all truth (Roberts,42).
When Marlow expresses doubts about the nature of the work, she replies, You forget, dear Charlie, that the labourer is worthy of his hire

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