The question that women should ask according to Irigaray, then, is one that male textssuch as "Heart of Darkness" can also enact if they are on the side of thefeminine economy -- They should not put it, then, in the way in which withindiscourse, the feminine finds itself as lack, deficiency, or as imitation or negativeimage of the subject; they should signify that with respect to this(masculinist/logocentric) logic, a disruptive excess is possible on the feminine side.(Irigaray 78)
Turning to our first point about narrative structure, then, Marlow's journey up theriver is toward the realm of the semiotic, the realm of multiple perspectives suggested bythe self-conscious circularity of the text. Said, in commenting upon the imperial contextof Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", inadvertently addresses some points about thesemiotic and female form.
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The limited depiction of female characters in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the way in which the three female characters are referred to by Marlow reflect Marlows view of women as inferior.
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness | David …
With such doubts, why does Marlow undertake the journey? The ostensible answer lies inhis boyhood (masculine) passion for maps where he saw the many blank spaces on earth, andone that looked particularly inviting was in the center of Africa. By the time he grew up,it was not a blank space any more; it had rivers and lakes with names, and it had become aplace of darkness, no longer virginal. Others had gone before him, filling blank spacewith phallic power. Now, what is left to fascinate him is, a mighty big river...resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest, curvingafar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depth of the land. He concludes, thesnake had charmed me. (HD, 23)
Post-Colonial Analysis of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
By the time Heart of Darkness was written the European powers had established colonies across most of the globe, though in the run up to the First World War they were already losing their political and administrative grip. The excesses, abuses and hypocrisy of the imperial system and the individuals within the imperial system are thoroughly explored. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, particularly when this is power over the fate of other human beings without the checks and balances of organised society. We are left wondering how to apportion blame towards the system (i.e. the Company) or the individuals within the system (i.e. Kurtz) and to what extent one individual is justified in criticising another (i.e. Company, Marlow and Kurtz).
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - MsEffie
The theme of darkness first appears in the title and recurs throughout the book. Darkness is applied in different ways such as to contrast the supposed barbarism of the African natives with the light of European civilisation. At an individual level the theme is applied to the spiritual darkness of some of the characters and the contrast between supposedly 'civilised' characters like Kurtz and 'uncivilised' characters such as the Africans. The concept of darkness is also related to obscurity and ambiguity, particularly moral issues which are not clear-cut. One of the strong messages of the book is that what may be initially/superficially considered or expected to be 'light' is 'dark' (in whole or in part) and vice versa. For example, London and Belgium are both described as dark and gloomy places suggesting that it is these colonial capitals not places like the Congo that the real heart of darkness exists. This concept was in conflict with the commonly perceived wisdom of the time that Africa was being enlightened by the colonising forces within Europe.