Evil and Darkness Writing complex moral and psychological observations, Joseph Conrad innovated novel structure and also became one of the finest stylists in 20th century Literature. His works include complex layering of interrelated and overlapping symbols. Conrad uses metaphors as stylistic devices to incorporate the symbolic contrasts of light and darkness into his writings, especially the short story Heart of Darkness. Embedded in Marlow's subject is an ongoing metaphor representing light and knowledge with darkness, mystery, and savagery. Light carries with it the metaphorical meaning of good, clear, true, safe, Christian, civilized, humane, and day. Darkness represents obscurity, cloudiness, mystery, danger, barbarism, night, and evil. Light and darkness refers to truth and evil. In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the main character Thomas Marlow characterizes events, ideas, and locations that he comes across in terms of light or darkness.
The negative but mysterious tones filtering Joseph Conrad's works originated from his harsh life as a child.
At a young age, his mother died and then his family moved to Russia in exile. After his father died while he was still young, Conrad made his way to become a sailor at the age of seventeen. He progressed rapidly in his field and in writing. "Though he knew very little English at the time, he joined the British Merchant service in 1878, and in less than ten years rose to the rank of captain and mastered the English language" (Mendelson 111). With his exceptional experience as a sailor, Conrad possessed the knowledge to write a great story about mystery, adventure, and travel.
"Heart of Darkness is possibly the greatest short novel in English, one of the greatest in any language" (Mendelson 119). Conrad surely rose to become the master of "the complex moral and psychological examinations of the ambiguity of good and evil" in reference to darkness and light (Mendelson 111).
Heart of Darkness begins on the Thames River near London. Marlow then begins his tale relating to England's ancient past. "And this also,' said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places of the earth'" (5). Then he said, "...Light came out of the river since-you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker-may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday" (5). Marlow followed shortly by speaking of the Romans who came to conquer Great Britain. "They were men enough to face the darkness" (6). The meaning becomes evident in these statements that the light being spoken of was civilization and the darkness was its equivalent, barbaric wilderness. As the story moves on, the reader finds that the former barbarians of Europe had become the bearers of the light of civilization to the new countries. However, Africa remained a place in the darkness. Africa and the Jungle refers to darkness and uncivilized lands. Africa was to the European, a place of a type of darkness and that of obscurity. It was a place of unknown wonders and hidden images and dangers as well as disease and violence.
Lightness and darkness refer to concepts that occur the day and night. Day is a time of discovery. Night is a time of evil. The story includes the battle between good and evil referring to light and darkness. Conrad, in his novel Heart of Darkness takes on a physical journey through lightness and darkness. The ultimate journey, however, is an internal one. Marlow is on a quest for the inner truth he must find the light and dark within himself. Throughout the novel, Marlow expresses the concepts of evil and truth with light and darkness.