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Conrad's Heart of Darkness - Book Report/Review Example

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Far from simply telling the reader his critique of colonialism in a straight-forward manner, Conrad leads the reader on a path of discovery so that he can reach similar conclusions on his own. One tool that Conrad uses to accomplish this is the use of various narrative devices. This has long been observed, and it ahs been suggested that the variation of Conrad's narrative technique from straight-forward discourse helps to destabilize the cultural assumptions that supported colonialism.
"Edward Said, and before him Wilson Harris, has observed that Conrad's very style with its first-person narrators, framed narratives, time jumps, fractured sentences, and addiction to adjectives upsets the notion of absolute truths assumed by the 'Civilizing mission'" (Hawkins 370).
In this paper, Conrad's techniques of narration, the rather unusually ordering the text, moving in a linear direction like a mystery, but also withholding or giving important pieces of information out of temporal sequence, and his practice of transforming seemingly simple narration of events experienced by his story-teller Marlow into complex images that strongly suggest the richly symbolic and evocative character of works of visual art, are used to support his critique of colonialism.
The Heart of Darkness is not told by Marlow. ...
In Heart of Darkness the "I" speaks for several pages, interacts briefly with Marlow, then lets his narrative take over. The "I" reappears only in the last paragraph when he informs the reader, "Marlow ceased" (77) and continues his own narrative of the ship voyage they are sharing.
This complex element of the Heart of Darkness' narratology was keenly observed by Conrad's fellow novelist Henry James (James 1914). From a logical view point, this device ought to make the story seem highly implausible since it is obvious that no one could report exactly a speech of thousands of words that he heard only once, so a text produced in this way must be filled with error and conjecture. Yet, as James rightly argues, the device thickens the "atmosphere of authenticity" (313). The writer must work harder to handle the multiple levels of narration, but the result seems more effortless to the reader than a simple omniscient narrator. This is because it copies the circumstances of real life. Everyone has heard someone tell a story second hand so it seems natural to read a story constructed in that way. Conrad is suggesting a situation in which the reader will have found himself occupying the position of the narrator, listening to a story, rather than the more formal act of reading a story. The individual personalities of the narrators, their similitude to real persons, seems to testify to the truth of the narrative. By assigning the omniscience of the narrator to the highest level, the "I" of Heart of Darkness, the implausibility of a speaker who knows and controls everything is removed, leaving the sub-narrator Marlow free to seem a real person speaking in real terms, for all that he is as omniscient as the author needs him to be. ...Show more

Summary

Conrad's Heart of Darkness, published at the close the nineteenth century (1899), is an important step in the development of the modern. It is an early important example of the Western intellectual elite in reaction against Western culture, in this case in denouncing colonialism, then an integral part of European and American civilization…
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Conrads Heart of Darkness essay example
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