Heart of Darkness

Restraint in Heart of Darkness 11th Grade

Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ is not merely “the story of a journey up a river,” but rather an insightful psychological study into the human condition and the hidden nature of mankind conveyed in the form of a narrative. Conrad explores his perception of the human psyche through the concept of ‘restraint’ and the ironic symbolism of light and dark imagery, delivered within the context of 19th century colonisation and imperialism. The value of the text to 21st century readers lies in the perennial nature of its psychological theme as the novella scrutinises the “heart of darkness” that exists within us all.

The motif of ‘restraint’ is present throughout ‘Heart of Darkness,’ with its significance becoming gradually substantiated as the novella delves deeper into its exploration of the human condition. Conrad observes, under the guise of Marlow, that restraint (most notably in the forms of societal expectations and work) both influences and suppresses human behaviours and decisions. This notion is illustrated through the portrayal of the Manager, a man who embodies the greed, hollowness and moral ambiguity of colonisation, and yet who managed not to lose himself in the “darkness” that he helped create. It is revealed that he...

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