There have been various discourses about a literary world of Joseph Conrad who has been called as one of the great pioneers in 20th English literature. Since he was a Polish author and wrote in English, his vocabulary, grammar and syntax was accepted as unusual and new at that time. Not only these multilingual aspects of him but his personal experience in French, England and Congo as a seaman before a writer deeply affected his many various works such as Almayer's Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, Lord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, The Duel, Victory, The Shadow Line, and The Rover, Heart of Darkness.
Moreover, it is important to find the fact that he wrote in the heyday of the British Empire to have a great grasp of his literary world. He wandered European countries and colonies of Europe and then settled in England. As a cosmopolitan as well as a man who always crossed the borderline between a country and a country, his issues of identity fully reflected his works and those issues and his racial and political attitude has often been controversial until now.
Of a variety of controversies surrounding Conrad's works, the most famous thing was provoked by the Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe. In his essay, 'An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'", he regarded that "Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist" (260) for reason that Africa itself was "a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest"(261). Conrad, he says, portrays Africa as " 'the other world', the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization"(253), which makes Achebe say that Conrad took an antipathy against black people. The issue of racism in Conrad's novels aroused controversy and it is ongoing now and it was absolutely inevitable considering how political and social situations he lived were.
However, we should know that his unique descriptive style was remarked and differentiated from other established authors in England in that his ability to express incomprehensible and mysterious things was outstanding and which contributed to make his works the subject of the controversy and consistently to cause disputes on his certain viewpoint among many scholars who tried to find out it. Furthermore, he formed a diversity of lively discussions with race, social hierarchy and gender awareness as well as his distinct writing style and his complicated narrative structure. He also opened the arena of philosophical and historical arguments beyond literary criticism.
Likewise, of the good number of strong points in his pieces, the reason his work, Heart of Darkness is meaningful for us living the present is that this novel surprisingly epitomizes ambivalence which means coexistence of two conflicting values or feelings. To explain, the world we are living is not fixed and secure. As the barriers between countries collapse and the world gets globalized, it is hard to hold a center point we can depend upon and we are in the uncertain situation that threatens our own distinctive identity. Accordingly, if we can try to indirectly understand Conrad's ambivalent perspective in such a confused situation, it definitely helps us live our insecure lives.
In this paper, I will deal with how Conrad's ambivalent feelings and thinking about the wilderness, the African people and the white society was described in Heart of Darkness and look into what an effective imagery he used in embodying it literarily by using visual imagery, auditory imagery and layered narrative.
Ambivalence in Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad tries to explore the inner side of a man by providing him with an array of different experiences in an exotic setting in Heart of Darkness. In Joseph Conrad's psychological realism, Hyo-won Kim claims that Conrad often depicts psychological shocks and split personality that a protagonist suffers in tension of conflict between modern western civilization and primitive wilderness oxymoronically, an obscure unconsciousness and wonderful world of sub-consciousness of human from a skeptical perspective.(27) These conflicts between unconsciousness, consciousness and manifestation of sub-consciousness are showed in his description of the wilderness, the African people and the white society.
2.1 Ambivalent Description of the Wilderness
In Heart of Darkness, the wilderness has two conflicting aspects. One is an object to be conquered by the superior European countries. Another is a sort of spiritual, supernatural existence not to be conquered by human being who is doomed to dead someday. It means that the first aspect is a reflected result of a desire of self-expansion and the second one relates to a desire for protecting oneself who is aware of finiteness of a life.
For starters, as Chinua Achebe pointed out, Africa in Heart of Darkness functions as just a backdrop or setting that the protagonist, Marlow enlarged his world view.(60) What is important here is that Conrad overlooked the fact that Africa was also a place that many African people live an ordinary lives like white people do in Europe. He erased the culture and history of Africa and made it an abstract image like a sort of concept, fantasy or idea of European people. It gives European people a chance to make an arbitrary interpretation regardless of a fact, which shows how white European people has perceived and dealt with Africa with a feeling of superiority. For example, we can see this in the comparison between the Thames and the river Congo in the first part.
And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. (Heart of Darkness 2)
What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires. (HD 3)
The Thames is described as a starting point of man's intelligence, civilization and refinement. European people have reverence and affection to the Thames because it has the great spirit of the past and symbolizes the dreams of men. Accordingly, it reminds them of their greatness and their great past history. On the contrary, as the antithesis of the Thames, the river Congo is portrayed as "the mystery of an unknown earth." (HD 3) The use of definitive word deprives Africa of its historical, cultural and political characteristics and covers the whole thing of Africa under the name of the mystery. The assumption is a tool to make European people invade and exercise a force on Africa as they want. That is, the white people go to Africa to satisfy their curiosity and affirm their assumption seeing only what they want to see there. It reveals transcendental desire of the white people in that they expand their geographical area and then are trying to see what they could not see.
However, the white, Marlow who determines to go to Africa with ambitious mind is overwhelmed by the wilderness, which makes him feel like keeping himself away "from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion."(HD 12) With a sense of awe and fear of the wilderness, he thinks that it blurs perception of reality. It can be interpreted that Marlow unconsciously knows that he is an invader who comes to Africa with a sense of European superiority and in front of the wilderness he feels unconsciously his insignificance, his mortality when he sees the infinite coast that always looks the same. In other words, the wilderness is memento mori to him. We can see that he is aware of the fact unconsciously by the following quotation.
We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life. (HD 13)
At the same time, he feels uneasy with the idea that the wilderness destroys him and leads him to death. It derives from a sense of guilt about the general European mind that considers nature as a target of conquest and suppression. The expression he uses such as intruders and death in life mirrors his subconscious horror well.
2.2 Ambivalent Description of African People
African people, in common with the wilderness, are described differently reflecting Conrad's ambivalent mind. Like the wilderness, African people are barbarous and thus an object of subjugation, modernization and detribalization with reason and enlightenment which is a solid foundation for Western imperialism. In contrast, he finds that human beings are always helpless against the force of nature and he sometimes identifies African people with nature. As a result, he also experiences supernatural power from them in harmony with nature. Additionally, what is important here is that he feels a sense of kinship as the same human being.
To begin with, Conrad likens African people to black ants, naked beast and he does not forget to refer their skin color which is black. Sometimes, he eliminates their form or their presence by telling them simply black shadows or shades. In An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', Achebe says that in the place of speech African people made a violent babble of uncouth sounds and exchanged short grunting phrases even among themselves.(57) Likewise, African people has no great difference from beasts in this novel and even reminds us of devil coming from Hell.
"catch 'im," he snapped with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth -"catch'im. Give'im to us." "To you, eh?" I asked; "what would you do with them?" "Eat'im!" he said curtly. . . . (HD 42)
His attitude that separates himself from African people by emphasizing their inhumane aspects suggests how he perceives African people. That is, he just seems to want to confirm that he was a more superior, privileged white person. As a result, his purpose of exploration is not based on enlargement of worldview or self-expansion. He just has a sense of pity for the ignorant natives with the superiority of European culture.
However, as we discussed in the ambivalent description of the wilderness, there also exists ambivalence about some of the African people. Similarly, Conrad gives supernatural spirit and power to an African woman who is some kind of mistress to Mr. Kurtz.
She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, 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. (HD 66)
Her appearance leads us to think of a possessed shaman who connects this world and the next. A shaman mediates between the world and the next and manages affairs of human that usual people cannot know and do. In this sense, she is a superior existence to Marlow and that is what Conrad suggests. In addition, in Joseph Conrad's Ambivalent Criticism of Imperialism, Sang-kee Park explains that this woman in harmony with the background of nature expresses the vital force that European people do not possess. Park also indicates that there is a stark contrast between richness and vigor of the African woman and paleness of the Mr. Kurtz's fiancée.(17) From Achebe's claim that Conrad lavishes a whole page quite unexpectedly on the African woman (56), we know Conrad's intention showing that Marlow is attracted by her fecundity and full vitality. It means that Marlow is struck as small mortal human being before the woman who symbolizes infinity or a perpetual life.
Two kinds of African people I explained above are in the opposite sides and represent Marlow's ambivalent feelings of African people. Meanwhile, there is another man who lies between the extremes, who is Marlow's African helmsman. He drops down with a spear in his heart and gives his white master a look in final moment.
And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory - like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment. (HD 54)
After his death, he realizes that a subtle bond between Marlow and his helmsman is broken. A significant point is that he notices a sense of fellowship after death because it suggests that in a matter of life and death human being are equal regardless of race, national identity and power.
Furthermore, there are some African people on the verge of starvation who startle Marlow by the fact that they do not eat European people despite of hunger. Marlow finds out that cannibalism is no more than their custom; they also have self- restraint opposed to beasts. Consequently, these direct experiences weaken a deep-rooted previous prejudice or a sense of superiority in Marlow and expand his civilized identity in European cultural context to a cosmopolitan's perception. In the Images of the Superior man and the mean man in Heart of Darkness, Cheol-soo Kim says that Conrad pursues Marlow to do self-expansion as a protagonist in the open world by overcoming self-centered viewpoint and escaping himself from a narrow worldview and to recover relationship with others. (7) Additionally, it implies criticism of western culture that constructs self-centered empire as a result of oppressing others. As we examine, the description of the African people in Heart of Darkness has two different aspects which are hatred (abomination) as others and affection (fascination) as the same human being. This citation shows that clearly.
Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him, - all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the heart of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination-you know. (HD 106)
Through those proceedings, Marlow seems to approach the truth of a life. However, Conrad never resolves the ambivalence in Marlow even at the ending of this novel. Depending upon the story, we can just assume that a series of experience would enrich Marlow's life but cannot conclude what truth is because Conrad sticks to his distinctive oblique writing style.
Ambivalent Description of White Society
Achebe asserts that the Thames too has been one of the dark places of the earth but conquered its darkness, of course, and is now in daylight and at peace. Then he tells that Conrad divides the river Congo and the Thames into bestiality and civilization. (253) However, description of white society is not always positive even though description about greatness of the Thames is splendid. White society in this novel is seemingly refined and elegant but his underlying idea of it sometimes seems to be inexorable and uncomfortable. We would catch his skeptical tone about white society representing civilization, culture, politics and economy. We can see this in the following scene that Marlow arrives in a city to sign a contract to be a seaman.
A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar. I slipped through one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert, and opened the first door I came to. Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool. (HD 8)
As Marlow says that the city makes him think of a whited sepulcher, the image of city is different from what we usually regard crowded and dynamic. His description of the city is prosaic, coercive. Plus, when we recall that a whited sepulcher implies confinement, death and hypocrisy, we can presume his unconscious feelings of the city. Park also says that Belgium, a capital of European imperialism, is showed a whited sepulcher referred in Matthew 23. This expression is originally a figure of speech used by Jesus Christ to criticize a faqih laying stress on formal ostentation and hypocrisy of Pharisee. He claims that the inside of a whited sepulcher is full of death and smuttiness even though the outside of it is beautiful and coated cleanly. (274) Likewise, Conrad portrays Belgium as a place death and hypocrisy which is the center of imperialism. The image of the city gives us a feeling like a phantom town where no human lives and displays that civilization gets rid of vitality of human life. We also cannot overlook two women knitting black wool because an act of knitting closely relates to human's impending doom when we recall "Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, in which Madame Defarge knits 'with the steadfastness of Fate'" (HD 103) Thus, the descriptions of the Thames and the city have ambivalence in that each represents light and darkness, peace and death.
Additionally, there are many white people in Heart of Darkness. As a foreigner in Congo, Marlow encounters two types of white people. As Marlow decides to go to Congo out of his curiosity and passion, he meets the same kind of people who have inquiring mind or curiosity about life. Marlow first meets a doctor who wants to measure Marlow's head saying that "I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there."(HD 10) He is the man who dedicates to a progress of science and believes that he can do it.
I have a little theory which you Messieurs who go out there must help me to prove. This is my share in the advantages my country shall reap from the possession of such a magnificent dependency. The mere wealth I leave to others. (HD 10)
His remark shows that he does not care of personal economic benefit but he cares of the advance of science and the advantage of empire. The old doctor has a sense of duty, dream and lofty ideal to make new discovery.
Marlow then sees a white man under a hat like a cart-wheel beckoning persistently with his whole arm (HD 55) at the river-bank. He is a young Russian man and has looked after Mr. Kurtz. Marlow envies him and he is captivated by his spirit of adventure.
If the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this be-patched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest and clear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely, that, even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he-the man before your eyes-who had gone through these things. (HD 59)
The reason Marlow is enchanted by him is the fact that the Russian man keeps his pure mind and hope even though he is in savage and crude situation contrary to himself who is disappointed by secular white people and fearful barbarism.
Meanwhile, the other description is completely different from them. The previous captain before Marlow is murdered by African people. There was misunderstanding about two black hens between the man and African people, in the process, he tried to show self-respect and finally beat the chief with hammer. In A Comparative Study of Narrative Structure on Heart of Darkness & Apocalypse Now: Modernism vs. Postmodernism, Mi-Sook Um indicates that he is a precursor of Mr. Kurtz in that he goes to the Africa with a torch to realize noble ideals that enlightens barbarians. (5) In the jungle, Marlow faces impulsiveness and violence of white society "when an opportunity offered at last to meet his predecessor, the grass growing through his ribs was tall enough to hide his bones."(HD 7)
The Company's chief accountant shows well how western modernization and capitalism covers violent act of crime and a system isolates human from touches of humanity.
I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for assort of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had a penholder behind his ear. (HD 17)
Um explains that the chief accountant neglects African people's groans with starvation and disease and do his work hard, which shows snobbery in that he regards African people as an obstacle in doing his job. (5) "His books, which were in apple-pie order" (HD 17) means his irrationality because this achievement can be made under exploitation and sacrifice of African people. Marlow calls it achievement and accomplishment. Nevertheless, Marlow's remark that "his appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance" (HD 17) unconsciously suggests ugly aspect of humanity and in that sense; the accountant is like a hollow man who have no hearts. In other words, the accountant signifies both extreme moderation, self-control and pitilessness, cruelty. The rest of white people are blind to personal gains and corrupted. That is inside and outside of western European imperialism and we can grasp that it reflects the contradiction of European ideals from his ambivalent description of the white people.
Imagery of Ambivalence
There are some effective imageries of ambivalence in Heart of Darkness. To convey his theme symbolically, Conrad often uses visual imagery such as white and black, light and darkness, auditory imagery such as frenzy and silence and unique narrative structure.
3.1 Visual Imagery
It is easy to compare Heart of Darkness with an aesthetic architecture because the structure of the story is systematically composed with the beginning, the middle and the end charged of various symbols. The beginning part as embryo of the story starts description of a steamboat. "The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest." "The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway."(HD 1) We can easily bring out a man's exploration against nature or a man's quest into the abyss of the soul with a regard to a boat and the river. Accordingly, the term "interminable" means invisible reverse of one's soul and the hidden inside of life. In The Mythic Structure of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Hyun, Young-Min also explains that Marlow's journey into the mystery of an unknown earth thus symbolizes not only man's venture into his past history but also a quest into the abyss of human soul. (14) Likewise, Conrad tries to show inexpressible or incomprehensible things to us by detailed expression like this with these symbols.
Conrad often also uses visual contrast such as white and black, light and darkness. The image of whiteness in the story appears in a white sepulcher, ivory and light and white people and the bald head of Kurtz. In the case of light and white people in the beginning part, light and whiteness are a symbol of enlightenment that eliminates darkness representing evil and barbarism but it reveals the other side as the story goes. Park, Sun-Hwa, in "To make you see" through the Symbols in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, says that Marlow thinks that the natives are murderer or barbarians with wickedness, aggressiveness and violence before he goes to Congo but he realizes that the natives have strong vitality and are living harmoniously with nature. On the contrary, white people who are exploiting them and make them starve are indeed barbarians. Thus, whiteness suggests hypocrisy of civilized people, and black is the power of life force. (9) We can know these symbols of whiteness in the description of the accountant wearing white clothes and ivory representing of human's self-centeredness, vanity and depravity of human nature. (9) To be specific, Hyun, Young-Min explains that thus this light is suggestive of the whiteness of civilization which blights and impoverishes the black savages relentlessly instead of playing a role of the torch to enlighten them. This light is symbolic of the spiritual emptiness of a white man indicated in Kurtz. The blinding symbolism of European civilization is well expressed in Kurtz's painting of "a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch"(HD 25) (12) When we regard destructive nature of fire (torch or light), we can find out that it has ambivalent imagery.
The image of black and darkness is referred in the skin color of African people, two women knitting black wool in Brussels, Mr. Kurtz and the wilderness. It is associated with death, horror and emptiness in soul. At first, darkness of the wilderness means both horror and a sense of awe for Marlow because he feels fear of infinite power of nature. Black people are also a target to be improved, humanized to need enlightenment (light). However, as he sees the terrible scenes of imperialism which are suffering beings, a variety of kinds of corruption and Mr. Kurtz who is a devil incarnate, the meaning of darkness comes to change into dark side of civilization and European imperialistic people with profoundly dark souls. That is, he is shocked by the fact that Chaos or Hell expressed as darkness is not in the wilderness, but the world of civilization, culture he lives in. Accordingly, such an ugly truth enlightens Marlow, which could be regarded as being in Hell or Chaos because the truth shakes his world supporting his previous conception and conviction. In the same vein, it closely relates to Marlow's significant remark on dying Mr. Kurtz that "His was an impenetrable darkness." (HD 75) and Mr. Kurtz's final remark, "The horror! The horror!" (HD 76)
3.2 Auditory Imagery
Especially, Conrad overthrows auditory imagery as regards to the core theme of the story and shows the process that Marlow's thinking changes. Silence in the Thames shows peaceful and orderly world that conquered all of the confusion and disorder before. On the contrary, silence in the river Congo is a threat to Marlow because it makes him feel a sense of guilt by giving him time to reflect on himself.
And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion. (HD 23)
This is because he subconsciously realizes that the reason he is here does not be resulted from simple curiosity and pure passion of exploration. As a result, he feels that he is not different from white people that he gets totally disenchanted. "I became in an instant as much of a pretence as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims."(HD 27) Therefore, since the act of soul-searching leads him to see the hidden truth under the surface, he fears of silence in the wilderness that gives a chance of self-examination and makes him know his self-deception.
You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appals me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies, - which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world - what I want to forget. (HD 27)
In terms of frenzy or noise from wilderness, he considers it primitive for the reason that African people are all savage and barbarous at first. Nevertheless, he becomes confused as he sees the brutal scenes of imperialism, so eventually he starts feeling that it is fury of nature.
Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild - and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. (HD 19)
Free from a private individual, he thinks that invaders coming to Africa are receiving punishment for Europe-centered mind which conquers and exploits nature and only pursues one's benefit. Compared to a bell in a Christian country, it shakes the earth because the sound of nature relates to the conscience in human's mind.
As for the final burst of Kurtz, it is the moment of change from Marlow's previous abstract ideal idea to realization of reality. He always listens about Mr. Kurtz from the general manager, the accountant and the Russian man in the station. The stories about Kurtz are just full of words like God. "He was just a word for me."(HD 27) Finally he listens to his voice though. It means the distance between our idea or expectation and the real situations. Although His expectation to meet Kurtz realizes, he finds out Kurtz degrades beyond his control and reason. However, we should remember that this story is also handed down by the listeners, who are Marlow and anonymous speaker. Accordingly, it shows that there is always room for reinterpretation, distortion and beatification.
I did not see the man in the name any more than you do. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see the anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream - making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. . . . (HD 27)
Finally, when we consider that voice instantly disappears as soon as it emanates, we can understand that it is analogy of our mortal life. No matter how we try to approach the truth, it is demanding to have a clear sense of it. In addition, the meaning of such an act or the truth is likely to get discolored because we are living in a limited time. All we can do is interminable effort as if we walk in complete darkness.
3.3 Imagery of Narrative
Above all, when we read the beginning part of the story, it does not seem to be interested in the very corner story as if "glow brings out of a haze."(HD 3) A detailed portrayal of landscape discourages us to read and catch it because diffuse sentences and overflowing adjectives overwhelm us. Therefore, we cannot get the idea because even making a picture in our head reaches a limit even though visual details should extend the range of perception.
Interestingly, though, that is how to Conrad displays his idea, which is a symbolic setting. That is, he takes advantage of the fact that we cannot comprehend feelings and situations at that time because those moments already passed and even we pick a story up from others. The point is that it is inevitable that there are gaps between idea and reality, the real situation and experience that we think and rearrange by our feeling and thinking. For example, it applies to Marlow's journey because he goes to Congo with yearning for exploration but he becomes disillusioned. It shows that his ideal idea is betrayed by reality.
Furthermore, since Marlow depicts his past experience, his depiction might have been changed by his subjective analysis. Kurtz's story is also conveyed by Marlow's perspective. In addition, an anonymous speaker is telling Marlow's story, which means that opinions of the anonymous speaker are projected in the story. In this sense, in Vision, Illusion, and Misinterpretation in Conrad's Under Western Eyes, Jong-Seok Kim indicates that of special importance is the fact that the problem of illusion is not restricted to the novel's protagonist and narrator alone; it is also true of the novel's other main characters. For them, the world is like "a blank page" on which they project their own ideas, hopes, prejudices, and desires. Locked in his subjective and narcissistic perception, each character creates for himself a vision of the world in his own image, shaping it into the mould his distinctive imagination invents. (979) Thus, layered narrative in Heart of Darkness makes us have a difficulty in grasping real story and its meaning.
In Literary World of Joseph Conrad, Bae, Jyong-Un says that when we talk about Conrad's narrative, the next quotes show his distinctive descriptive way that requires various and complex response and judgment depending upon how you see as well as strong suggestiveness. (297)
The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine. (HD 3)
In this way, by layered narrative, the essence of the story is blurred, which figuratively emblematize the core content of the story that the cultural division and hinge supporting Marlow becomes obscure and he agonizes the issue of how he can sustain himself. Besides, such confusion on a quest represents a defect of perception. According to Jong-Seok Kim, Conrad's condemnation of their very one-sided perceptions of reality is indicative of perspectivism, which is the technique of portraying characters, objects, and events from different perspectives or points of view. (979) That is, it precisely encapsulates that we cannot show the truth by showing the story through imagery of narrative in an ambivalent way.
Throughout this thesis, Conrad's distinctive description of ambivalence in dealing with the wilderness, African people and white people and how he embodies ambivalence through imagery are introduced. To be specific, the conflicts between instinct and custom, consciousness and unconsciousness, a human being and a European man are expressed in these descriptions. The protagonist, Marlow has detached feelings and attached feelings at the same time to both white people and African people because he wants to expand himself mentally but if so, his base of existence is threaten. Also, nature is portrayed as supernatural and overwhelming existence as well as an object to be exploited. By these mixed sentiments, he experienced confusion of identity and the collapse of conviction he had. Accordingly, it is natural that he feels these ambivalent feelings.
In the case of imagery, visual and auditory imagery are used and Conrad's the way of narrative also epitomizes what he wants to tell us by showing. He often takes advantage of image of color such as white and black, light or darkness. It sometimes corresponds to our feeling of color and sometimes is inconsistent with it case by case. Such a contradiction fully reflects the ambivalent mind suggested in this story. Frenzy and silence creates an atmosphere of terror or an atmosphere of peace. Marlow's an unconscious sense of guilt projects silence, which signifies death to him. Ironically, silence of nature provides him with restful feeling and a chance to retrospect him. Frenzy ranging from gunfire of white people to boisterous sound of African people sometimes makes him disillusioned or charmed.
Likewise, ambivalent sentiments form a nucleus in Heart of Darkness. Although numerous theories and criticisms focus on the relationship between Mr. Kurtz and Marlow, the most significant thing here is his unique style of description, imagery and its meaning. These infinitely stretching meanings give us a chance to deeply think our perspective about life and to strike a balance between ambivalence because this novel postpones a definite answer or decision. That is, Conrad shows that that is a life and our invincible journey to be continued in the future.