Gender in the Heart of Darkness

Essay by Lil-shortyHigh School, 12th gradeA, November 2007

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Despite the fact that Marlow suggests that the women in Heart of Darkness are ignorant and out of touch with reality, they are actually the most powerful characters in the novel, which significantly shaped the lives of Marlow and Kurtz.

Powerful Women in the 1800’s:1. Queen Victoria:Lasted 63 years (longer than that of any other British monarch)Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (included Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, and large parts of Africa) and Ireland and first Empress of IndiaThe Victorian era-height of the Industrial Revolution,-A period of significant social, economic, and technological progress in the United Kingdom. Victoria's reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost Global Power of the timePeriod centred on her reign is known as the “Victorian era”.

-Influential-made sure that her country was economically and militarily powerful and a model of civilization2.

Virginia Woolf:- Novelist, essayist-One of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century-Continuing power and ever-increasing influence-One of the most important and influential feminist writers of the twentieth century-Feminist (fought for women’s rights to be equal to men)The Hours (2002)-movie made about Virginia Woolf-shows how her work has influenced other women’s lives4 women mentioned in Heart of Darkness: (the only women mentioned and have influence over Marlow and Kurtz’s lives)1. Kitting Women, 2. Marlow’s Aunt, 3. The Intended, 4. The Native Woman1. Knitting Women:-Power over people’s fates- people who go past them, either end up going to the jungle and possibly dying. They decided on people’s fates.

-Symbolize the “Gateway to the Jungle” (first step to going to the jungle)READ “Guard to the door of Darkness” (37)2. Marlow’s Aunt:- Secures Marlow a position with the CompanyREAD “I [Aunt] know the wife of a very high personage in the administration, and also a man who has lots of influence with…..” (34)-Because of her connections and determination, she got Marlow his job with the companyREAD “I [Marlow] got my appointment-of course; and I got it very quick” (34)3.The Intended:-Represents civilizationREAD “You should have heard the disinterred body of Kurtz saying ‘My intended’” (84)-she has affected him and is the reason why the people (Russian) want Kurtz to go back (to civilization).

-She lives in civilization and so it is part of her-Women’s world represents civilization because women want things perfect, orderly and efficient (civilization)-Light is symbolic of civilization-Marlow can’t tell her that Kurtz’s last words because it would bring darkness into her womanly world of civilization (which represents light)4. Native Woman:Controls tribeSavage side of KurtzRepresents wildernessREAD (100-101)-she has power over Kurtz. Is what is keeping him there.

Fates Myth:•Knitting women represent Klotho, Lakhesis, Atropos (godesses that weave the threads of destiny that control one’s life.

•Klotho spins the thread of life, Lakhesis determines the length of the thread and Atropos cuts the thread when the proper time has come for deathQuestion1: How do the women we mentioned in the beginning of our presentation (Queen Victoria, Virginia Woolf) relate to Heart of Darkness?Question2: Why are women significant in Marlow and Kurtz’s lives?Conclusion:Even though Marlow says that the women are ignorant and live in their own beautiful world, they actually have the most power/influence over Kurtz and Marlow’s lives.