Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness: A Feminist Viewpoint

In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s preconceived notion of the naïve and sheltered woman is revealed early in the novel: “It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are! They live in a world of their own and there had never been anything like it and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset.” (Conrad 10) However, it is because of the women’s purity and naivete that the female characters in the novel–Marlow’s aunt, knitters of black wool, the African mistress, and the Intended–possess a sense of mystery and wield power over the men. The women eventually lead the reader to the discovery of a new truth—not that of the stark reality of the Congo, but of the fact that men yield to women’s will as a way to discover and assert themselves. The women are powerful enough to present the men with a direction, a literal journey, and a sense of purpose.

Though Marlow’s aunt and the wool knitters appear for only a short period, their presence precipitates and steers the course of the novel. Marlow’s aunt, who is presented as a disillusioned woman stubbornly adhering to the notion of “White Man’s Burden,” is the one who actually directs Marlow into his...

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