Week 12 Conrad Notes and Questions Final

Week 12 Conrad Notes and Questions Final - Heart of...

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Heart of Darkness Introduction and Reading Questions: Heart of Darkness has been considered for most of this century not only as a literary classic, but as a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism. It reflects the savage repressions carried out in the Congo by the Belgians in one of the largest acts of genocide committed up to that time. Conrad's narrator encounters at the end of the story a man named Kurtz, dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities. More recently, African critics like Chinua Achebe have pointed out that the story can be read as a racist or colonialist parable in which Africans are depicted as innately irrational and violent, and in which Africa itself is reduced to a metaphor for that which white Europeans fear within themselves (Africa as a symbol of the exotic “other” or darkness). The people of Africa and the land they live in remain inscrutably alien, other. The title, they argue, implies that Africa is the "heart of darkness," where whites who "go native" risk releasing the "savage" within themselves. One could argue, however, that the darkness of the title is the represents evil, oppression, greed, and the act of colonization and imperialism itself. Defenders of Conrad sometimes argue that the narrator does not speak in Conrad's own voice, and that a layer of irony conceals his true views. Novels like Heart of Darkness in particular, provide a bridge between Victorian values and the ideals of modernism. Like their Victorian predecessors, these novels rely on traditional ideas of heroism, which are nevertheless under constant attack in a changing world and in places far from England. Women occupy traditional roles as arbiters of domesticity and morality, yet they are almost never present in the narrative; instead, the concepts of “home” and “civilization” exist merely as hypocritical ideals, meaningless to men for whom survival is in constant doubt. While the threats that Conrad’s characters face are concrete ones —illness, violence, conspiracy—they nevertheless acquire a philosophical character. Like much of the best modernist literature produced in the early decades of the twentieth century, Heart of Darkness
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This note was uploaded on 03/24/2011 for the course ENG 329 taught by Professor Pitts during the Spring '11 term at ASU.

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Week 12 Conrad Notes and Questions Final - Heart of...

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