An analysis of the women in "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad.

Essay by bijoux71High School, 12th gradeA, March 2003

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Heart of Darkness

A striking contrast in the story "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad is the differences between the two women that Kurtz is involved with. His intended, a white woman who waits faithfully for him in Europe, and his fiery African mistress help to reinforce the themes and ideas in the story.

The two main female characters can be seen as symbols of the contrast between light and darkness. Kurtz's mistress is "savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent." There is something "ominous and stately in her deliberate progress." She embodies the wild, untamed land of Africa. She is dark-skinned, haughty, and unwavering. Her aloofness and savage nature add to the portrayal of her as evil. Kurtz's intended, who he leaves in Europe, has "fair hair, pale visage, [and] pure brow." Unlike the African woman, she hangs her head in sorrow. She is the ideal woman, who will uphold the memory of Kurtz and be faithful, not passionate.

There is nothing evil about her, only naïve good-intentions and unquestioning loyalty.

Kurtz's mistress and his Intended also help us gain insight into his decline into madness. When Marlow meets him he no longer cares for the principles of society, and is cheating on his fiancé with the African woman. The African woman represents how Kurtz has formed an "alliance" with the natives.

Conrad's own belief that women are far removed from the reality of men is reinforced through his portrayal of Kurtz's Intended. She cherishes the thought that Kurtz is a man dedicated to "saving" the Africans. She is certain that Kurtz loved her faithfully, never realizing that he has an African lover. "I alone know how to morn him as he deserves," she seems to say. At the end of the tale, Kurtz finds her so pathetic...