Heart Of Darkness Vs. The Turn Of The Screw

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

download word file, 4 pages 0.0

Downloaded 1858 times

Essay: Heart of Darkness vs. the Turn of the Screw Charlie Marlow, thirty-two years old, has always "followed the sea". His voyage up the Congo River, however, is his first experience in freshwater travel. Marlow didn't think of going to Africa for economic prospects such as free slave labor and ivory. Even though Imperialism is something that is taking place during his time, to Marlow, Africa represents a chance for adventure and self- exploration. He has always esteemed imperialism as a noble thing to do. The governess, when she first arrives at a new home for her role as governess, she is immediately taken with the children. The youngest daughter of a poor country parson, she went to London at the age of twenty to look for work. She sees them as pure, innocent beings that need her help and guidance. These two characters seem to have nothing in common.

Marlow, a main character in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, and the governess, a main character in The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, both however go through a transformation. Throughout the course of each novel, Marlow and the governess lose their innocence. Although their experiences leading to this change are antitheses, their loss of innocence is the same. Both Conrad and James have overlaid a veil of mystery and darkness on each of the novels. This, impart leads to the characters' disengagement from naiveté.

The circumstances that lead to the character's state are drastically different, but in both novels, the more the main character delves into his or her surroundings, the more they realize that they will need to let go of their previous beliefs. In Turn of the Screw, the governess is first delighted with Flora, the little girl, who is beautiful and perfectly behaved. Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper doubts the innocence of the young children, yet the governess in engrossed in their purity and guilelessness. This is something that the governess will eventually overcome. Similarly, Marlow, in Heart of Darkness, is held by the belief of the greatness of exploration and imperialism. He saw Africa as, "a blank space of delightful mystery- a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over"� (71). As in the governess' circumstance, Marlow's view of Africa also is altered. Conrad doesn't emphasize the notions of Marlow before his loss of innocence, yet the two novels are similar in that the two characters adhere stubbornly to their beliefs. For example, in the governess' case, after the two sightings of the ghosts, all the governess can think about is shielding the children from the spirits of the depraved Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Before Marlow sets out for Africa, he learns about the horrid circumstances in which the former captain of the company he was applying for had been killed. However, Marlow still describes this incident as a "glorious affair."� It is evident that in both the novels, Marlow and the governess are too engrossed in their affairs to realize their naïve character.

Throughout the course of the novel, these two characters have come to a realization. Marlow takes into account the horrifying surroundings of the Congo, while Miss Jessel begins to see suspicious behavior in the children. In the Heart of Darkness, as Marlow is traveling on his boat, he sees the horrific conditions that the natives of Africa are kept in: Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their loins, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking (81).

This quote illustrates one of the many brutal scenes that Marlow saw which awakened him to a whole new perspective. Unlike what Conrad writes, James introduces the idea of the governess' loss of naivete not by describing her surroundings, but showing the reader the transformation of her mind. When she sees Miss Jessel, she suspects that Flora also saw her, but pretended she didn't. From this incident, the governess' previous beliefs about the children are gone, and now she suspects the children of conspiring with the ghosts. "I don't do it!" I sobbed in despair; "I don't save or shield them! It's far worse than I dreamed--they're lost!" Her stating that the children are "lost"� refers to both the loss of innocence in herself and the children.

As Marlow sees the appalling scenes one by one, and as the governess sees each of the actions of the children as devious, both characters have obviously undergone a change. It is apparent that Marlow's view since the beginning has changed. As the men on the ship are discussing the glory of empires, especially in Africa, Marlow interrupts and say, "And this also has been one of the dark places on earth"� (67). It is not as clear in The Turn of the Screw that the governess' perceptions have changed, for the author does not come out and say it like in the Heart of Darkness. However, it is clear by her actions and by her thought processes that we can see through this first- person narrative that her naivete is indeed gone. The governess is now sure that Miss Jessel, Flora, Peter Quint, and Miles meet regularly. It's a conspiracy. The children pretend to be reading when, in fact, they are talking of Quint and Miss Jessel. It's all a fraud- their "unearthly beauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness." The children are not "good," they are simply "absent." Quint and Miss Jessel possess them Evidently, both novels both carry a theme in the loss of innocence, or more specifically, the extrication from the disillusionment of naivete. In the Heart of Darkness, and the Turn of the Screw, Marlow and the governess, both encounter horrid incidents that turn their perspectives to a different way. Although the incidents they undergo are drastically different, both result in the same outcome. One story is taking place during the age of imperialism""the other is during the Victorian Era. One story is about a man going through a journey in the African Congo""the other is about a young woman's role as the governess of two children. Yet these two novels, by Joseph Conrad and Henry James, encompass the same theme of a character undergoing a change and becoming awakened to the realm outside of their incognizance.