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Heart of Darkness Essay

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The mistress was always considered primitive and did not become civilised after being with Kurtz, showing she had strength to stay who she was and not be influenced by the `white man’, as many black people were. Her power on Kurtz, however, was far too great and he could not help but be influenced by this wild woman and also by the country, in which she lived. Kurtz was also influenced and changed by the `power’ of Africa.

He could have control over the natives but he would never be able to succumb to the “heart of darkness”. The mistress, herself was actually a representation of Africa: “… like the wilderness itself… ” which emphasises her power and compares it to that of her land into which even white men were afraid to venture too deep. When Marlow looked at a map of Africa he described the Congo river as looking like a snake.

This again makes the audience relate back to Adam and Eve. A snake which symbolised the devil convinced Eve to tempt Adam. So through this we can see that the mistress received some of her power through a greater source. Her inability to speak makes readers think of her as more animal and primitive but this just adds to her mystery and makes her appear more like Africa and at one with the power in it. “… the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul. ”

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Emphasising these three characters’ power, Conrad uses a contrasting character for comparison. This character is Kurtz’s `intended’ who was very much opposite to the other females, in particular Kurtz’s `mistress’. This woman was a typical Victorian fantasy: “This fair hair, this pale visage, this pure brow… her forehead, smooth and white… her fair hair seemed to catch all the remaining light in a glimmer of gold. ” She is the type of woman any British man would want.

The use of words such as `fair’, `white’, `smooth’ and `pure’ conveys her as being innocent and good and she was never spoken about in a sexual way- she seemed not to have any sexuality- which is a very powerful attribute to have. Someone with these characteristics is usually not very powerful. Also her background: she is British and British women were often marginalised from power or authority due to males’ values so too would she be- she is no exception to this- more like an example of it. A year after Kurtz’s death she still mourned him and tells Marlow: “I have survived. ”

This tells readers she finds it hard to like without Kurtz- she is finding it hard to find the power to struggle on. Then when Marlow lies to her about Kurtz’s last words- readers are aware that he is does not believe she has enough strength (power) to handle that kind of truth. This lie is made to maintain women’s “great and saving illusion”. For this `powerless’ woman Marlow wants to “help (her/women) to stay in that beautiful world of their own… ” This is contrasted with the other three `powerful’ women as they were not in “that beautiful world of their own”.

The aunt was almost in a `man’s world’- finding power from others in high places. The knitting women were represented as being in the `after world’ having power over people’s lives and “guarding the door of Darkness” therefore having the power (like the men believed they had over women) of deciding who could come in to their world and who could not. Then there was the mistress: her personality and her `world’ was the complete opposite to the intended (who was the representation of `powerless’).

The mistress was considered wild, very sexual and uncivilised, living in an almost `animal world’ obtaining her power from nature. The typical woman in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, is represented as not possessing much or any power.

This is seen through the eyes of a man – therefore women are marginalised. They are excluded from the bulk of the story but when they do make an appearance, the `aunt’, the `knitting women’ and the `mistress’ all convey some sort of amazing power that is not typical to Marlow’s views and that men (of those times) do not consider or want women to have. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Joseph Conrad section.

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