Heart of Darkness Style of Joseph Conrad


A narrative-style is what distinguishes a writer and defines his class; it is a "particular manner of an individual literary work" which may include structures, vocabulary, imagery, symbolism, irony, sarcasm, tone, philosophy and treatment of the topic in a particular manner. Style is the most important aspect with which a writer yokes together all possible literary vehicles to communicate the theme and his overall opinion regarding the subject matter. Though, as a matter of fact, most of the literary features are employed by almost all the authors; as a general approach, writers are prone to a superior use of certain facets of style in addition to other features, this tends to associate a writer with those particular aspects of style. Where Milton's style is overwhelmed with the grandeur of language and blank verse; Arthur Miller's style is dominated by tragic aspect of human life, Hemingway relies upon symbolic depictions of his characters and Swift's prime concern appears to be satire.

Style is the most useful tool which helps a writer build an inspiring as well as everlasting piece of work in art. Conrad's style is a peculiarity in English novel. Reacting against the traditional novels of his time, Conrad's task "is, by power of the written word, to make you hear; to make you feel,--it is, before all, to make you see" with the purpose to depict "encouragement, consolation, fear, charm" and "the glimpse of truth". He employs his imaginative powers with the harsh realities to create melodrama which suited the task at hand. In "Heart of Darkness", based on the novelist's personal impression and familiarity of imperialism, he depicts the pitiable social conditions of Congo. Under the influence of impressionist and aloofness, the primary features of his style include dialogue, melodrama, imagery, lively characters, romanticism, realism and symbolism.

Impressionistic style in Heart of Darkness and Joseph Conrad:

In relating the evil and a rather pessimistic state of affairs of human civilization in Africa, Conrad uses the impressionistic style to relate the story. We, primarily, move forward with the character of Marlow. His eyes becomes our guide and his thinking faculty our bent of mind. For Conrad, a novel is "an impression conveyed through the senses". In fact under the persona of Marlow, Conrad himself is relating the story of pain, misery and unbearable truth of human existence. All of this roots from the imperialistic practices and the primitive rituals still prevalent in the African society. The industrial and imperialistic forces merely further polluted and exploited the already horribly awe stricken African countries. With the use of impressionistic technique, the author has been able to share his personal experiences of human barbarianism in Congo. Probably, we cannot forget "exterminate the brutes".

Dialogues style in Heart of Darkness and Joseph Conrad:

Though a novelist's prime aim is to relate the story but several of the novelists have endeavored to touch upon the dramatist's tool of dialogue in an excess to further brighten and enliven their characters; Conrad is certainly one of them. In all his novels, he has done so by ascribing dialogues of actions to the characters while the descriptions are narrated as well as revealed in dialogue. In "Heart of Darkness", it is the character of Marlow that speaks and leads the audience to form a conception of the human civilization which is dying in the wilderness of the primitive Congo. Marlow describes Congo as: "one of the dark places of the earth." While the novelist remarks: "It was accepted in silence". Marlow furthers the description of Congo which is replete with: "cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death". He further admits that "They must have been dying like flies here".

Melodrama style in Heart of Darkness and Joseph Conrad:

The novels of Conrad certainly carry a melodramatic touch; though they are real, yet they are hard to digest too. Along with the characters like Kurtz, he does create extreme situations. For instance, in the "Heart of Darkness", the author has created a new world which is totally opposite in appearance and meaning to the one the human civilization is proud of. At times it seems as if only the horrible episodes have been woven together to create this melodrama which is perhaps the result of Marlow's excessive emotional tone. For Marlow: "It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind--as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness".

Imagery: This is with the user of imagery that Conrad creates the environment necessary for the depiction of a civilization which at the lowest ebb. In "Heart of Darkness", the journey of Marlow is the venturing into the land of darkness from the land of the sun. The author gives such vivid description to the landscape that on the physical level it is certain for the travellers that they are moving from light, Europe, into darkness, Africa. The novel is replete with such images which create the sense of hopelessness, plotting and rule of evil in Congo. He describes Africa with the image of an "immense snake uncoiled" and the imagery of "women knitted black wool feverishly" demonstrates the plotting of the company to loot the already darkened Africa. Marlow feels himself an "impostor" for the first time in all his journeys.

Symbolism style in Heart of Darkness and Joseph Conrad:

Like all modern writers, Conrad has skillfully employed symbolic use of language to effectively carry the themes to the readers. "Ivory" is symbolic of the greed of Europeans; they have conquered Africa for "looting and plundering". Kurtz' painting of a blindfolded woman symbolizes the Europeans are either blind or have turned indifferent to the impacts of their deeds in Africa. Similarly the distorted face of the woman reflects the distorted moral standing of the Europeans that came to Congo with the claims of civilization. This is ironic that a blindfolded nation bears light with the claim to rescue the African which indeed they never wanted to. Kurtz is symbolic of the darker side of man. Marlow symbolizes the learning curve of man and European civilization.



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