Personal Reading of Stephen A. Reid's Article The "Unspeakable Rites" in "Heart of Darkness"

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Reid's article brings the "Unspeakable Rites" in Conrad's "Heart of darkness" into focus. It mainly raises the question of whether critics should examine Kurtz's rites or leave them unexamined. These rites are so horrible and terrible to the extent that critics have refused to examine them. These critics take such a stand as they tend to associate the ambiguity centring around Kurtz's rites with Conrad's desire to leave them shrouded in uncertainty. They, thus, see no reason for examining them. However, determined as he is, Reid stands against this view; he believes that these rites are to be examined. He says, "We must try to understand what those rites were." Arguing that the critical function should not stop where Conrad does, Reid undertakes to examine Kurtz's rites believing that such an examination will certainly serve to clarify certain inexplicable passages in the novella. Reid heads towards examining these rites for the purpose of wiping out the ambiguity by which Kurtz's rites are characterized.

At this stage, it is worth mentioning that Reid, in examining these rites, draws a lot on the famous British anthropologist Sir George James Frazer. In order to account for Kurtz's rites, Reid quotes from Frazer's book "The Golden Bough." Reid says, "My assumptions will rest upon Sir George James Frazer's analysis of primitive man's anxiety about the continuance of the world and about the mortality of the man-god, and of the methods used by him to allay the anxiety and to circumvent the inevitability of the man-god's aging and dying." According to Frazer, people in primitive societies hold firm beliefs as to the strength of their man-god. These people believe that the course of nature is dependent on the man-god's life and, thus, the gradual enfeeblement of his powers...