Topic : STUDY OF CONRAD
Joseph Conrad was born on 3rd December 1857 at Berdicev, in the Polish
Province of Podolia. The works of Joseph Conrad are:- Heart of Darkness,
Typhoon, The Nigger of the Narcissus, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Under the
Western Eyes, The Secret Sharer, The Shadow Line, Chance and Victory.
The Realist—The Impressionist
Conrad’s “Oriental Style” is the one of the features for which he is most
admired. Heart of Darkness is no more a direct representation of conditions in the
Congo in 1890 than it is of Conrad’s actual experiences there; but it is an
expression of the essence of the social and historical reality of the Congo Free
State as his imagination recreated it. Experiences which were his own, he
attributed to a Captain Marlow. He has the Captain narrate his adventures orally
to a group of men. Heart of Darkness was based on Conrad’s voyage to the head
waters of the Congo and his personal impressions of the geographical and social
conditions of that exploited country. Many of the characters were taken from life.
Conrad in the first place is not the conventional realist. He was not like
Bennet a close observer of everyday life and he did not systematically document
If label there must be, “impressionist” is the most suitable for Conrad. The
appeal of a novel, ‘he wrote, “must be an impression conveyed through the
senses”. This impression, however, could never be conveyed through the most
complete inventory of details; it is an intuitive whole and must be rendered so,
instantaneously. Thus he approached life as if it were a wonderfully skittish. The
essence of Conrad is pure sensory impression, at his best rendered with extra-
ordinary vividness and immediacy.
Conrad’s main objective is to put us into intense sensory contact with the
events; and this objective means that the physical impression must precede the
understanding of cause. Literary impression implies a field of vision which is not
merely limited to the individual observer, but is also controlled by whatever
conditions—internal and external—prevail at the moment of observation. Conrad
wanted, to the meaning as to the inside as to the outside, to the meaning as to the
appearance; and this is one of the reasons why, in the last analysis, he is so
different both from the French Impressionists and from Pater, Crane, or Ford. For
contract, the world of the senses is not a picture but a presence, a presence so
intense, unconditional, and unanswerable that it loses the fugitive, hypothetical,
subjective, and primarily aesthetic qualities which it usually has in the
Conrad, remarks that his way of describing the external world is the exact
opposite of traditional narrative description. Conrad’s art, he writes, “does not
trace the reality before the man, but the man before the reality; it evokes
experiences in their subjective entirety because the impression is the equivalent of
the entire perception, and because the whole man experiences it with all the
powers of his being”. Conrad’s “great originality”, Fernandez concludes, “is to
have applied this impression to the knowledge of human beings”.
Conrad is in line with one of the important movements in modern fiction.
Yet his subject matter remains strikingly different. He remained entirely aloof
from the industrial world, and he showed interest in the paler, attenuated emotions
or the complicated maladjustments or any of the special problems and peculiar
attitudes of a sophisticated society.
Many novelists, Conrad among them, have tried their hands at writing
plays. This is the natural result of the importance in fiction of dialogue. All
serious novelists use it for a large number of purposes—to reveal and differentiate
character and motive, to slacken or quicken the action, to provide contrast or
humour, or to pin-point a moment.
Conrad’s dialogue is vigorously idiomatic. It is characterized by question
and exclamation marks, by “eh’s” and “By Joves”. This involves the reader in an
exchange of views. His characters move in both worlds. His best scenes convey
vividly the sense of people thinking of the past, planning for the future,
influencing others and revealing the complexity of human motives and emotions.
“It (style) must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the
colour of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music—which is the art of
THE MODE OF NARRATION:-
His prose is rich, glowing, atmospheric, eloquent and superb. Like any
other good writing, his prose style is no more and no less than the translation of
thoughts, feelings, perceptions, into worlds with the minimum loss of intensity.
Conrad, as writer of prose, had a manner a style of writing—a style of extreme
flexibility, expressiveness, and interest.
During the composition of Heart of Darkness Conrad had a particular
reason to be conscious of the problem of the role of ideas in literature. Conrad’s
first description of Heart of Darkness makes it clear that he conceived it in an
ideological context: “The idea in it”, he wrote to William Blackwood, “is not as
obvious as in Youth –or at least not so obviously presented. The criminality of
inefficiency and pure selfishness when tackling the civilizing work in Africa is a
justifiable idea”. This letter was written very early, and refers only to the story’s
obvious anti-colonial themes but there are many other ideas in Heart of Darkness,
which is Conrad’s nearest approach to an ideological Summa.
In the last half of the nineteenth century it was not the physical but the
biological science which had the deepest and the most pervasive effect upon the
way man viewed his personal and historical destiny. Conrad grew up in the
heyday of evolutionary theory; Alfred Wallace was one of his favourite authors;
and several aspects of evolutionary thought are present in Heart of Darkness. The
evocation of primordial human history is part of Conrad’s reflection of a wider,
though indirect, aspect of evolutionary theory in Heart of Darkness.
Three- Dimensional Characters:-
Like Virginia Woolf, Conrad avoided the stock or flat character. Conrad
made characters like everyday people and gave them a third dimensional, a
‘poetic aura’. It gives characters the weight of sculpture. This makes characters
larger-than-life and gives them a magic control over the world.
Character with legendary Qualities:-
A large number of Conrad’s characters have legendary qualities. Heyst on
his lonely island, Kurtz hidden deep in Africa, are all solitary figures, rooted in no
past and committed to an uncertain future.
JOSEPH CONRAD AS A SYMBOLIST
There is plenty of symbolism in Heart of Darkness. Most of the modern
writers are profound in their thinking, and their thinking is complex too. The
complexity, combined with profundity, leads them to imbue their writings with
greater significance than we find on the surface. In Heart of Darkness every
person and everything means more than what we are likely to find on a superficial
view. Conrad has used both the historical facts and the facts of his own life to
express something beyond history and something beyond his personal self.
Almost every character in Heart of Darkness has some symbolic
significance. The central figure in the novel is Mr. Kurtz, and he is nothing if not
a symbol. Indeed, this man symbolizes many things. He symbolizes the greed and
the commercial mentality of the white people of the western countries. Then he
symbolizes the white man’s love of powers. Marlow too has a symbolic role in
the novel. He symbolizes the spirit of adventure and a love of knowledge. Ivory
symbolizes the white man’s greed. Ivory is the commodity in which the
Company’s agents are most interested.
In the end, I would like to throw light on Conrad’s use of imagery. Mist or
haze is a very persistent image in Conrad. It appeared as soon as he began to
write. In Heart of Darkness the fugitive nature and indefinite contours of haze are
given a special significance by the primary narrator; he warns us that Marlow’s
tale will be not centered on, but surrounded by, its meaning; and this meaning will
be only as fitfully and tenuously visible as a hitherto unnoticed presence of dust
particles and water vapour in a space that normally looks dark and void. So these
were the different aspects of Conrad’s writing which I presented to you.