The “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll tell a journey into a world which is a conflicting reflection of the protagonist’s “real” world. As the protagonists travel to new places, they are both presented with clashing views on prevailing themes in their lives. In the case of Marlow in the Heart of Darkness, he is faced with opposing ideas on the most vital components in imperialism – trade and slavery. As for Alice in Wonderland, the young girl is confronted with the challenge to accept the conflicting basis of maturity following both rational and irrational complexities in the society.
In both of the novels, the relationship between the two worlds were portrayed as the struggles which people had to face in order to formulate their own personal ideologies based on their varying views presented by the society. Moreover, alienation (or the fact that each of the protagonists had to handle their struggles alone) was promoted as a necessary step towards the full appreciation of one’s social construction of reality. Clashing views on imperialism: Moral Responsibility vs. Pure Suppression
In the Heart of Darkness, contrasting views of imperialism and slavery are challenged. Marlow, the protagonist of the story, comes from a world where the enslavement of the Africans is considered as essential and customary pieces of the colonial enterprise. The men who were working for the Company – upon which Marlow is also a part of – treats the blacks in an perverse, cruel, and often viciously violent manner. However, this harsh treatment is seemingly justifiable as Marlow’s world regards the slaves as uncivilized.
Thus, the process of slavery is not seen as it is. Rather, it is often deemed as a vital part of the benevolent project of “civilizing” the natives. As such, prior to his journey upriver to see the fabled Kurtz, Marlow maintains his role of masking the slavery and violence by the socially accepted idea that the subjugation is based on legitimate backgrounds of moral responsibility. As Marlow meets Kurtz however, Marlow’s idea of the glamour of conquest and imperialism evolves into a struggle of morals.
As he survives the river, meets the natives, and finally encounters the man that is reputed to be honorable and upright, his moral beliefs shatter. Technically, he is not faced with a world that’s entirely different from where he came from. Instead, what Marlow encounters is a setting where there is a whole new definition of conquest and trade – the main activities upon which he was engaged in. Basically, Kurtz was not the man Marlow and other people envisioned him to be.
In conflict with the prevailing social definition of conquest for the Company, Kurtz saw the truth in imperialism. The presumed praiseworthy man was in fact a tyrant among the natives. He realized the fact that he was not trading but rather forcing the natives to find ivory for him. Moreover, Kurtz was open to the idea that he was – in no positive way – civilizing the natives. Rather, he was suppressing them, controlling them through intimidation and extreme brutality, and using them to his advantage, and the Company’s benefit.
As a result, Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz only served as a perplexing experience where he had to question what the real purpose was behind acts of conquest and slavery: Are his actions just a tool for injustice and intimidation? Is there really no justifiable cause for intimidating the natives? To a certain degree, Marlow’s experience with the “other” world puts him in a crisis of whether he should continue believing that his world’s obviously unjust practices had a good and tolerable cause or not. Growing up: Tolerating the illogical and irrational
In the story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, conflicting views of maturity and growing up is presented. On one hand, the real world equates maturity as the state where logic and rationality is used in reasoning, interpreting, and in maintaining harmony in the society. In contrast however, the young Alice equates adulthood as to what she sees in Wonderland – a place where silly and illogical regulations are created on the basis of egoistic goals and ambitions, propelled by bad habits and wrong ideals that people willingly developed throughout the course of history.
In Wonderland, Alice faces a new world – one wherein the ways of reasoning are every much in contrast of hers. To a certain sense, her new world is similar to the “real” world of adults because both are comprised of rules which are, most of the time, very confusing. A typical example is the character of the Duchess who always tries to find a moral in almost every thing that is happening around her. In the real world, adults are akin to the Duchess as they always try to live by the social norms which they created from their own interpretation of their society.
Another complex idea is the tolerance of the senseless orders of beheading given by the Queen of Hearts. Such scenario can be equated to the devastating wars often prompted by political leaders who are supposed to propagate world peace and progress. Also in Wonderland, trials seem to be very irrational and unjust; in the same way, justice is as confusing in the real world where fairness and integrity are supposedly practiced and promoted. As Alice struggles to understand the complexity of what is happening in Wonderland, she challenges her own idea of what is rational and supposedly mature.
Confronted with what’s hypothetically mature, Alice gradually evolves into a mature person who is able to formulate reasonable and valid interpretations of history and her present experiences. While Alice is confronted with odd events and curious beings in Wonderland, she tries to formulate reasons based on her social interactions with the creature and adjusts to the demands of the magical world. Through the interpretations that Alice forms from wonderland, she fulfills what is expected from a mature individual – the ability to tolerate the complexities of life.
As she forms a basis of reasoning and logic, she then forms her own subjective norms which are, to a certain extent, still confined within the prevalent ideas in Wonderland. These norms allow her to define her identity and at the same time, give her the chance to adjust and adapt to the situations that she faces in a place where “everyone is mad”. Through her adventures, Alice ultimately grows up and matures. CONCLUSIONS Two worlds as struggles towards the formulation personal ideals
In both of the novels, two opposing worlds were used as bases that will allow the main character to formulate his/her own personal ideologies and interpretations of prevailing themes in their lives. In the case of Marlow, the clash between the two worlds – or rather their definitions – gave him a chance to weigh his morals not merely on the more popular and conforming idea that African enslavement was natural and acceptable. Through his confrontation with Kurtz, he became enlightened.
The experience somehow liberated him from his blind adherence to the society and showed him the real circumstances of his actions and that of his society. As for Alice, the conflict between the real world and Wonderland also gave her the chance to construct an understanding of maturity. From a child’s point of view of adulthood as something incoherent, illogical, egoistic, and irrational, Alice was able to realize that such complexities were part of real life and that tolerance to what is seemingly unreasonable must be achieved in order to be capable of surviving and adjusting to the different scenarios of living.
As such, it can be noted that the incompatible relationships between the two worlds in each of the novels were presented as personal struggles towards the achievement of personal ideals formulated from varying views and interpretations that were present in the society. Alienation, an essential process for the social construction of reality It can be noted that both protagonists in the stories had to face alienation in the new worlds that they had to take part of. The fact that each of the protagonists had to handle their struggles “alone” promoted the theme of personal conflict in the novels.
Furthermore, this alienation heightened the level of conflict which existed in the clashing relationship between the two worlds that the characters had to take part of. In the case of Alice, she had to face different situations with different characters and different modes of reasoning all on her. Through this loneliness, she was able to fully grasp the idea that maturity is complex and that life itself was full of complexities and “madness”. This realization led her to construct her own set of interpretations, definitions, and realities which paved her way towards maturity.
Marlow, on the other hand, became alienated as he became exposed to a world where slavery among Africans was regarded as what it really is – a mere act of cruelty for the benefit of the White people. He was alienated in the sense that he formerly had a different – more consoling view of the “trade” that he was participating in. However, through this alienation, Marlow then achieved a more careful analysis of his society’s actions. By being exposed to the new world all on his own, he was given the chance to liberate himself from the beliefs that he was encompassed within.
In general, both of the characters endured alienation as an essential component which emphasized the conflicting relation of the worlds that they were exposed to. This alienation prompted them to think beyond what they were used to and such allowed them to construct their social reality based on conventional and unconventional truths. References: Caroll, Lewis (n. d. ) Alice in Wonderland. Retrieved from Bedtime Story Classics (Accessed 06 Apr 2009 from http://www. the-office. com/bedtime-story/classics-alice-1. htm) Conrad, Joseph (n. d.
) Heart of Darkness. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg Website (Accessed 06 Apr 2009 from http://www. gutenberg. org/etext/526) Maatta, Jerry (1997) An Analysis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Accessed 06 Apr 2009 from http://www. alice-in-wonderland. net/explain/alice841. html) __________ (n. d. ) Themes and Motives in Alice in Wonderland. (Accessed 06 Apr 2009 from http://www. alice-in-wonderland. net/school/themes. html) __________ (n. d. ) eNotes on Heart of Darkness – Themes. (Accessed 06 Apr 2009 from http://www. enotes. com/darkness/themes)