Heart of Darkness a Monster/Angel Analysis

     In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, two key women in his novel represent major antitheses of each other. Marlow’s aunt and Kurtz’s mistress represents Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s conceptual dichotomy of monster/angel. The two women act and play opposing parts, in Conrad’s novel. In fact, they both represent women who influence the protagonist in the novel as well as Kurtz, the person who Marlow strove to find and become. Before going into details referring to evidence in the novel to provide the reader an idea of the monster/angel dichotomy, the reader can gain knowledge about the monster/angel dichotomy as well as why this dichotomy proves important. Then, the reader can read on about useful language Conrad writes to portray the aunt as an angel. Next reader can read about Kurtz’s mistress and how she represents a demon for all good wives.

            According to Gilbert and Gubar, “Their argument in this selection is that even the positive images of w[o]men in literature express negative energies and desires on the part of male writers” (812). Conrad best expresses this best by a major sentence he writes before he introduces his delightful aunt. Conrad writes, “Then— would you believe it? — I tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work— to get a job. Heavens!” (8-9). He describes the actions his aunt took to secure his work. Although his aunt helps him find work, he boasts of employing his aunt in prior sentences.

     A key portrayal of a female as an angel stems from Marlow’s aunt. In the beginning of the novel, Conrad writes the aunt “wrote: ‘It will be delightful. I am ready to do anything, anything for you. It is a glorious idea” (Conrad 9). Marlow’s aunt writes down her excitement to help Marlow in his work goals and aspirations and uses heavenly language such as glorious. In addition, Conrad writes, “I found her triumphant” (14). Again, Conrad writes this to show that Marlow’s aunt does everything she can to secure Marlow’s position in the Ivory trade company and she succeeds. Later, in the novel, Conrad writes, “My dear aunt’s endeavors to ‘nurse up my strength’ seemed altogether beside the mark” (104). In other words, Marlow’s aunt tries to nurse him back to health as the women did for Jesus after his crucifixion, another angelic move. Keep in mind; he continues to scoff at her by saying “beside the mark” (104).

            Another key female character in the novel, which represents a dichotomy of monster/angel, stems from the existence of Kurtz mistress. Conrad describes Kurtz’s mistress and says, “’She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments…’” (Conrad 88). In other words, Conrad portrays Kurtz mistress in the story as a majestic character seemingly witch-like. Furthermore, after the treacherous ordeal of Kurtz collecting ivory in Africa, Marlow retells Kurtz story by saying, “He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, — he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath— ‘The horror! The horror!’” (Conrad 101). Kurtz speaks as if he sees a horrible monster that haunts him until his last breath. In other words, Kurtz summarizes his ivory importing experience, mistress and all, as an extremely horrific encounter.

     In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, two key women in his novel represent major antitheses of each other. Marlow’s aunt and Kurtz’s mistress represented Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s conceptual dichotomy of monster/angel. The two women acted and played opposing parts, in Conrad’s novel. In fact, they both represented women who influence the protagonist in the novel as well as Kurtz, the person who Marlow strove to find and become. After going into details referring to evidence in the novel to provide the reader an idea of the monster/angel dichotomy, the reader gained knowledge about the monster/angel dichotomy as well as why this dichotomy proved important. Then, the reader read on about useful language Conrad wrote to portray the aunt as an angel. Next reader read about Kurtz’s mistress and how she represented a demon for all good wives.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” Gutenberg Project. Ed. Judith Boss and David Widger. Gutenberg Project, 9 Jan. 2006. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/526/pg526.html&gt;.

Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004. 812-25. Print.

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