Significance of Congo River in the Heart of Darkness


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Significance of Congo River in the Heart of Darkness

  1. 1. Heart of Darkness The Significance of Congo River
  2. 3. <ul><li>The Congo River is the largest river in western central Africa. Its overall length of 4700km (2,920 miles) makes it the 2nd longest in Africa after the river Nile. The Congo River forms in a country that was known as the Congo Free State in the late 19th century .the name of the country chance several times in the 20th century and is known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Joseph Conrad traveled up the Congo River in 1890 and later based Heart of Darkness, arrives on the Atlantic coastline of Africa, then travels up the Congo to several sites in jungle. </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li>The river plays an important and vital role in the novel, 'Heart of Darkness'. The river allows access into the interior of Africa or more commonly known at this time as the 'dark continent’. The Congo River is the means by which the Europeans enter the region. It is also their main method of transportation. The river also acts as a divider, keeping Marlow separated from the natives and the evil ways of Kurtz. The river not only allows Marlow to see both sides of the continent, but it also allows Marlow to see both sides of situation. The river symbolizes the invisible thread that connects our good side with our bad side; just as it connected the good colonies with the evil interior. </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>The significance of the Congo River for Marlow, the journey on the Congo River is one of the most difficult and ominous journeys he will ever take. Marlow equates the river with a coiled snake. Thus, it is a symbol of danger; it lies in wait, ready to strike. The river is also very hard to travel up; because of its strong current it is continually pushing back Marlow and his crew, almost as it is trying to expel them from the interior. The slow progress upstream allows Marlow to get a sense of what the Congo really is. It lets him get taste of the horrors and contorting power of dark, dense, wilderness. The trip downstream was much faster and easier than the progress into the Congo. “The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness bearing us towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress.” So, while leaving the Congo, the river was swifter, making travel much smoother and rapid. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>The color of the river is also important. The brown current is symbolic of the natives that live in the Congo, for as the natives try and chase Marlow out of the Congo. Brown is a color that makes you think of the river as murky and contaminated. It is almost like when it ran through the heart of darkness, some of the darkness ran off into the river. Perhaps the river is moving so swift away from the interior is so that it can get away from the evil. The river is slow when going towards the interior because it does not want to be there anymore than the people traveling the river do. The river portrays the hesitation of Marlow going into the heart of darkness and the speed of him wanting to flee from it. </li></ul>
  6. 7. <ul><li>He also talks about a fog that settles over the river. This fog represents a distortion of what lies ahead. As he makes his decision based on what he thinks is right but really he has no idea of what will happen to him or his crew. </li></ul>
  7. 8. <ul><li>The fact that it takes him around and not completely into the jungle is significant of Marlow’s psychological journey as well. He never really goes on land but watches the shore from the outside. The only time he goes on shore he finds a waste land. For Marlow, the jungle of the Congo is representative of evil that man is capable of. In heart of Darkness, it seems that the further Marlow travels into the jungle, the deeper he looks into himself. </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>All this time he spent on the Congo River as he looks from the outside. This is symbolic as he is looking at his soul from the outside but never really sees himself until he goes on land to get Kurtz. When he arrives on land is symbolic of when he looks the deepest into himself. Marlow never walks the path that Kurtz did to self destruction. He went around the jungle to avoid getting captured by evil. Kurtz was a decent Englishman until he gave into the desires of his heart of darkness. Kurtz spent all his time in jungle and eventually forgot all of his self-control, manners, and upbringing. He truly looked in the deepest part of himself and found that his evil desires would reign. This is symbolic because he was deep inside the jungle. </li></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>As the novel progresses, the reader will start to understand all of these themes and symbols that the Congo River represents. It represents the shedding of layers of the soul and taking a look into the desires of the heart. It should be noted that journey upriver, into the heart of the Congo, is very time consuming and arduous. This suggests that the journey into oneself is both a slow and difficult task. </li></ul>